Early Childhood Tooth Decay
Many people are familiar with the term “baby bottle tooth decay.” However, tooth decay is not limited to babies who use bottles. Young children’s teeth can be seriously damaged if they form the habit of drinking anything but water from a bottle or sippy cup at bedtime or too often throughout the day.
Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases of childhood and the primary cause of toothaches. Tooth decay is a persistent condition that can cause children chronic pain and lead to additional problems as they become adults.
Because baby teeth eventually fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth, many parents aren’t concerned about tooth decay in baby teeth. However, baby tooth decay can lead to:
- Problems with permanent teeth. If baby teeth fall out too early, the permanent teeth may come in crooked.
- Infections. Decayed teeth can become infected or abscessed, causing a child severe pain.
- Poor nutrition. Tooth decay can lead to poor eating habits.
- Speech problems. Children with missing teeth or pain in the mouth may have trouble speaking.
The pain caused by even moderate tooth decay can affect a child’s entire life, even contributing to lower self-esteem and emotional problems.
Childbirth Graphics offers engaging resources that can help educate parents about the dangers of baby bottle and early childhood tooth decay.
The Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Model Set (Item #79865) features a handpainted, hinged model of baby teeth cast from a child’s mouth. It graphically reveals to parents and caregivers how the sugars that coat a baby’s teeth while sleeping with a bottle can cause tooth decay. The model comes with a parent handout, the 100-sheet, English/Spanish Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Tear Pad (Item #52561), which explains the harmful consequences of baby bottle tooth decay and provides steps to take care of children’s teeth.
Our Progression of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Display (Item #79212) includes four models of baby teeth that progress from healthy teeth to mild, moderate, and severe decay. It’s a real eye-opener to parents who may have believed that tooth decay in baby teeth is not a serious issue. Each of the hinged models is mounted to a sturdy base. The display is a great way to introduce the importance of early childhood dental care to new parents.
Although sippy cups may be convenient for parents and children alike, our Sippy Cup of Sugar Display (Item #79489) reveals the downsides to long-term sippy cup use. The display features a sippy cup that contains a model of decayed baby teeth submerged in sugary, sticky goo. It raises awareness not only of the role sippy cups can play in childhood tooth decay but also of the fact that drinks are the largest source of added sugar in many children’s diets. The display includes a two-sided tent card that covers the health issues caused by too much added sugar in a child’s diet—such as childhood obesity and tooth decay—and tips for limiting added sugar consumption.
Each of these educational resources is perfect for educating parents and caregivers about the important steps they can take to safeguard young children’s teeth.
To help prevent early childhood tooth decay:
- Wipe infants’ gums before their teeth come in and beginning brushing twice a day as soon as the first tooth appears.
- Do not give children a bottle or sippy cup at nap time or bedtime.
- Transition children from sippy cups to regular cups as soon as possible—by age 12 to 15 months—because drinking from a cup makes liquid less likely to collect around teeth.
- Limit drinks other than water to snack times or mealtimes—It is recommended that infants younger than 6 months not consume juice and children between 6 and 12 months consume no more than 4 ounces of juice diluted in water per day.
- Schedule children’s first dental visit before their first birthday.