Understanding tooth decay in children

By Kim Casci - Contributing columnist



Did you know 23 percent of children between the ages 2-5 have untreated dental cavities? Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in childhood. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed your infant, they can be at risk for tooth decay. The development of tooth decay is when a baby’s mouth is infected by acid producing bacteria.

It is very important for women to take good care of their oral health while pregnant. Normal suggested dairy intake for women is 2-3 servings daily. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) suggest that women who are pregnant consume 4 servings of dairy daily. The fetus will take all the nutrients needed from your body. Calcium intake is important for you to keep your own teeth healthy and strong as well.

Breastfeeding infants are susceptible to baby-bottle tooth decay (BBTD), although research shows that human milk itself does not cause BBTD. When the teeth are coated in almost any liquid besides water for a long period of time, BBTD can occur. Most mother’s quit breastfeeding after their baby’s teeth come in. For those who continue to nurse after, it is very important for you to remove your breast from the baby’s mouth once they fall asleep and wipe the mouth out with a damp wash cloth. When infants fall asleep while nursing, unswallowed milk is left in their mouth making them vulnerable to tooth decay.

The most common way for tooth decay to develop in infants, is when parents give their children a bottle to fall asleep with. This could include formula, juice, milk, soft drinks, or other sugary drinks. Tooth decay can also be shared through saliva. Bacteria is spread by saliva on spoons, cups, or straws. Testing your baby’s food with your mouth or tongue before feeding them, and cleaning off a pacifier with your mouth can spread the bacteria through saliva.

Tooth decay is sometimes hard to identify. At first, it may appear as white spots at the gum line or the upper front teeth. If your child shows any signs of tooth decay they need to be examined by a dentist. Early treatment can stop the spread of decay or any further oral damage.

To prevent your baby from developing tooth decay, begin gently wiping their gums and mouth out with a damp wash cloth before teeth are developed. When your baby gets their first tooth, begin brushing it with a soft baby tooth brush with a small smidge of fluoride tooth paste. Continue to brush your child’s teeth at least 2 times daily as recommended, after breakfast and before bed, as teeth continue to develop. Never put your child to bed with a bottle, sippy cup or food and do not use a bottle or sippy cup in place of a pacifier. You should also limit the amount of sweet and sticky foods, and sugary drinks your child consumes for better oral health. Be sure to make a dentist appointment at the age of 2 to get your child use to seeing a dentist on a regular basis.

WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. WIC helps income eligible pregnant and breastfeeding women, women who recently had a baby, infants, and children up to five years of age who are at health risk due to inadequate nutrition. The program improves pregnancy outcomes by providing or referring to support services necessary for full-term pregnancies; reduces infant mortality by reducing the incidence of low birth weight (infants under 5 ½ pounds are at greater risk of breathing problems, brain injuries and physical abnormalities), and provides infants and children with a healthy start in life by improving poor or inadequate diets.

WIC provides nutrition education, breastfeeding education and support; supplemental, highly nutritious foods such as cereal, eggs, milk, whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables, and iron-fortified infant formula; and referral to prenatal and pediatric health care and other maternal and child health and human service programs.

For more information about WIC, contact me at 7409920392 Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.


By Kim Casci

Contributing columnist

Kim Casci is the Meigs County WIC Clerk.

Kim Casci is the Meigs County WIC Clerk.