Baby teeth start to erupt between 6 – 12 months of age. As exciting as that can be, it’s important to also look at the implications and responsibilities that come with new teeth. Your baby is now susceptible to getting cavities even if they can’t eat anything because even milk formulas and natural breast milk have sugar! To help patients learn how to preserve your child’s oral and overall health during these years, our pediatric dentist has compiled a list of the best and worst things to feed your baby!
Best for Baby Teeth
- Breast milk: While breast milk still contains sugar, it’s an incredible form of nutrients for babies because the body creates it specifically for human babies! It’s usually loaded with just the right hormones, antibodies, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that babies need. It’s a dentist favorite, too (for babies)! According to Journal of the American Dental Association, babies who were only breastfed for their first 6 months were much less likely to develop teeth alignment problems. With that being said, it’s important for the person producing breast milk to be conscious of what they are consuming. Certain foods and drugs are not so safe for babies, even if it’s been diluted through breast milk. Better safe than sorry!
- Breast milk: No, it’s not a typo! While some people cannot produce breast milk, there are plenty of people who have too much to go around. There are lots of sources to find breast milk for your child. It’s definitely a worthwhile expense considering all its benefits. Just make sure to purchase from a trustworthy source who isn’t consuming anything that could be dangerous to your child.
- Baby Formula: Brands like Enfamil, Similac, and Gerber all produce formulas that are extremely similar to breast milk. There are also tons of additional supplements included and variations offered for babies with special conditions. Just remember not to put your baby to sleep with a bottle of formula. Exposure to sugar for extended amounts of time time can lead to decay and cavities at an extremely young age.
- Cow milk: For babies up to 12 months, whole cow milk can be a tasty substitute for formula or breast milk once in a while. Babies need a lot of energy and nutrients to grow and cow’s milk is rich with calcium, fat, and often, vitamin D. Before feeding your child cow milk, consult with your pediatrician to make sure your child doesn’t have any allergies or intolerances to it.
- Pedialyte: Most doctors don’t recommend giving pedialyte to children under 12 months unless they have diarrhea or vomiting. In this case, it can be difficult for babies to consume the electrolytes they need through regular milk or formula. Pedialyte is lighter, like water, but it still has those essential electrolytes. Again, be conservative with how much pedialyte you are giving your child and how often. It’s a supplement, not a replacement for your baby’s meals.
Worst for Baby Teeth
- Fruit juice/drink: Whether or not your fruit juice is 100% natural or organic, it is bound to have a high amount of sugar. That’s because fruits naturally have lots of fructose or fruit sugars. These can build up on the teeth, feeding bacteria and causing tooth decay and cavities. Artificial fruit drinks with added sugar and preservatives are even worse! If you do want to change things up, make sure to give your child a bottle of water to rinse their mouths afterward and give their teeth a little scrub.
- Flavored milk: Babies are fickle and they can quickly get addicted to the taste of sugar. Feeding your infant a chocolate or strawberry milk just once can change their palate and make them fussy over drinking regular formula or breast milk. Flavored milks are often full of sugar, so this is definitely not a good habit to form. Avoid giving your child any type of sugary, flavored milks through the bottle until the get older.
- Energy/sports drink: Many beverages that are marketed as energy or sports drinks contain much needed electrolytes that help rehydrate the body faster than water. However, many of these drinks also contain artificial coloring and sugar to appeal to the consumers and this can be particularly harmful to your baby and their teeth! Since your baby won’t be participating in too many high energy activities or sports, there’s really no reason to feed them these types of beverages.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be giving your child any substances with alcohol or caffeine, but we thought we’d mention it just in case. Breastfeeding mothers can drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation (a small drink a day) as long as they are maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.
Baby Oral Hygiene
As your baby grows, their dental routine will quickly change! Your little toothless baby will develop an entire set of chompers in just a few years. To make sure their smile is strong and healthy, consult with a pediatric dentist every 6 months (or fewer – babies grow so fast!).
As soon as the first teeth start to erupt, you can start wiping them down after feedings. Usually, these are the two bottom front teeth, followed by the two top front teeth. For caretakers, be careful not to share items or kisses directly with the baby’s mouth. Adults carry cavity-causing bacteria that that infants do not. This is also the perfect time to start seeing the pediatric dentist for nutrition counseling and dental checkups.
Once more teeth erupt, start establish a regular brushing and flossing routine as soon as possible! Good habits start early. You can guide your child through the process and let them practice on you or a doll. Your pediatric dentist will let you know when it’s a good time to start introducing fluoridated toothpaste into your child’s routine. Most children only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when brushing because their teeth are so small and they may have trouble not ingesting the foam.
Your pediatric dentist will guide your child through every stage of growth and development. If you have any questions about pediatric dentistry, give us a call at Epic Dentistry for Kids. We are always happy to help.