If you are like most proactive parents, you probably brush your small child's teeth twice a day, take them to the dentist regularly, and watch their candy intake like a hawk. Unfortunately, even those things won't do much to curb early childhood tooth decay if you aren't careful. Here are two simple parenting mistakes that could damage your child's teeth, and what you can do to prevent problems down the road.
1: Allowing Unlimited Daily Sippy-Cup Use
Every parent knows how attached their little one can become to inanimate objects. Your child might scream whenever you want to wash their favorite blanket, or freak out when they can't track down their teddy bear. When your kid goes through a transitional phase, like being weaned off of the breast or bottle, they might find comfort in their toys, or that new sippy-cup that you gave them as a replacement.
Although most people are aware that giving kids bottles or sippy-cups overnight can cause dental decay, most people overlook the fact that perpetual daytime use can cause just as many issues. If your kid is allowed to tote around his or her favorite cup all day long and get a steady stream of refills, their teeth will be constantly bathed with a fresh layer of sugary residue. In fact, some experts think that frequent sippy-cup use is one of the reasons that 2-5 year olds experienced 15% more cavities in 2004 than they did in 1994.
To fend off problems, don't let your kid sip on juice, milk, or other sugary liquids constantly. Offer your child water during the day, and other liquids during mealtime. Don't let your kid use their cup as a security blanket, and offer other forms of comfort instead. A few extra hugs won't cause dental problems, but might help your child to cope in a normal, healthy way.
2: Swapping Spit with Your Kids
Did you know that you might be giving your kids cavities? Most people don't realize it, but your mouth is filled with bacteria that can damage your teeth. This bacteria, called Streptococcus mutans, produces acid as it multiplies, which can erode away enamel and leave your teeth open to infection. Although babies aren't born with these bacteria, parents normally introduce it to their children before they are two years old by unintentionally swapping spit.
Saliva transfer can colonize your child's mouth with bacteria, where they can start doing damage right away. Here are a few ways that you might be unintentionally offering these harmful bacteria to your children:
- Sharing Eating Utensils: It can be hard to sit idly by and watch your child toss food all over your dining room, which is why a lot of parents decide to feed their kids with their own eating utensils. Unfortunately, sharing spoons, forks, cups, or straws with your kids can spread bacteria, which can damage their teeth.
- Kissing Kids on the Lips: Giving your baby a little peck on their pout might seem harmless, but you might be offering your kid a fresh dose of bacteria.
- Blowing on Food: Whenever you blow on your child's food, you are also transferring some of your spit to their plate. To cool their dish, consider putting their plate in the freezer for a few seconds, or fanning it with a clean hand.
Although most studies suggest that mothers and fathers are the primary sources of saliva transfer, other caregivers can cause problems too. Check it out and make sure that daycare workers, grandparents, and siblings understand the damage that a little spit sharing can cause, so that you can keep your child's teeth healthy.
Knowing your role in preventing early childhood tooth decay might help you to keep your child comfortable and happy.