Oral Health for Babies
- It’s pretty scary, but some of the decisions you make in the first days, weeks, and months of your child’s life can seriously affect their health, even how they look, for the rest of their life. So what should you be doing and why?
- If at all possible you should breastfeed your child for the first six-to-twelve months. What’s that got to do with teeth? Well, firstly, the action of breastfeeding produces correct growth of the baby’s jaws. All jaws grow in response to forces (that’s why orthodontics works). The force produced when a baby sucks on a breast allows the upper jaw to grow correctly.
- Secondly, the antibodies in breast milk protect the baby against infections. Illnesses can cause nose blockage, and enlarged tonsils and adenoids, which result in mouth breathing and incorrect tongue posture. Mouth breathing can distort a child’s jaw growth, cause sleep disturbances, or worse. And thirdly, good bacteria can pass from the mother into the baby via breast milk. The good bacteria are really important for the baby’s gut health and immune system development.
- 31% of babies who are not breastfed need braces when they grow up, but only 2% of babies who are breastfed need braces when they grow up.
- What if I can’t or don’t want to breastfeed? You should use a NUK nipple on the baby’s bottle. This best approximates the shape of a real breast. Be very careful that your child does not become a mouth breather (and start saving for braces).
- Don’t use them. They are a recipe for disaster. Prolonged use will quickly distort the growth of the child’s face (why do you think so many kids need braces these days?). If you are using a pacifier, change to a NUK model and then wean them off that ASAP. If you aren’t using a pacifier, don’t start. Again, if you have to use one for some reason, be sure to use the NUK type.
- If possible have your child go from breastfeeding to a regular or sippy cup. If you are bottle feeding, change to a cup as soon as possible. Don’t let your child go to bed with a bottle.
- Most tooth decay we see in kids is from juice. We hate juice. Most parents are smart enough not to give their small children soft drinks, but for some reason they think juice is OK. Well it’s not. Apple juice is just green sugar water. Never give your child apple juice. Never give your child juice in a bottle (never, never, never). Don’t be fooled by labels that say, “No Added Sugar.” That just means it’s already so full of sugar they couldn’t put any more in if they wanted to. Whole fruit is fine (it has lots of fiber). If you really think you have to give your child juice, then it should be in a cup and only once a day. Make sure they drink it quickly. You don’t want them sipping on it a long time.
- Sleep apnea is an increasing problem and needs to be investigated if suspected. First and foremost, your child should breathe through their nose. Mouth breathing is not normal and needs to be investigated. Thumb sucking can be a sign of nasal obstruction and needs to be investigated. Children should not snore. If you can hear your child breathing, then that can mean their airway is blocked in some way. That needs to be investigated.