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Can Infants Get Cavities?

It is absolutely possible for infants to get cavities, and this is why parents must be careful when caring for their child’s teeth. A baby’s first teeth will usually develop around the age of 6 months old, give or take, and up until the age of 3 years, infants will continue to develop teeth in a symmetrical pattern, and a baby can develop dental decay at any point during this development period. 

A pediatric dentist can spot cavities in babies as young as 4 months old, and many parents are surprised when they receive news of cavities because they do not realize that it is possible for children under the age of three to develop tooth decay. 

Reasons Why Infants Develop Cavities

  • Falls asleep with a bottle. When infants sleep right after having their bottle or fall asleep with their bottle in their mouth, bacteria will form, and this can cause cavities. Bottles are a source of nourishment for babies because they contain milk, but you need to remove them from the infant’s mouth before they fall asleep to prevent cavity-causing bacteria. 
  • Shares food and kisses with a parent or a caregiver who has cavities. Those with untreated cavities have higher concentrations of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, and these bacteria can be spread through close contact and when sharing food utensils. 
  • Teeth are not cleaned after meals. The teeth and gums should be cleaned with a soft toothbrush or soft washcloth to remove milk residue from the mouth. This will eliminate sugars in milk/formula, and this step must be completed regardless if the infant is nursing or using a bottle. 
  • Enamel deformities. While it is rare, it is possible for new teeth to erupt from the gums with deformities. These defects can make the teeth more prone to cavities, and this issue can be the result of genetic or environmental causes that occurred while the teeth were forming. 
  • Infant medications. Many of the medications formulated for infants contain sugar syrups, and this is why pediatric dentists recommend taking these medications at meal times if possible. If this is not a possibility, brush your infant’s teeth after they take the medication. 

Parents and caregivers must do everything they can to prevent cavities from forming because it is difficult for infants to cooperate at the dental clinic, and providing treatment can be a challenge. Additionally, the enamel is very thin and immature, and this will allow cavities to progress quickly when infants get cavities, and they may experience toothaches. 

Infant toothaches are very concerning because they have the potential to cause lifelong disturbances in development if there are feeding issues or oral aversions as a result of tooth pain. For these reasons, it is highly recommended that infants visit a pediatric dentist once or twice a year to prevent cavities. 

How Do Cavities Develop?

When the enamel is harmed by common bacteria living in your mouth, cavities can form. Bacteria feed on sugary substances left behind from foods and drinks and create acids that attack tooth enamel which will cause cavities. Breast milk and formula contain natural sugars, but they can still lead to tooth decay, and even though the primary teeth will fall out when kids are around the age of 6, what happens before will affect your child’s long-term oral health. 

Some parents do not pay much attention to the primary teeth because they assume these are not important since they will fall out, but the primary teeth are actually very important, and proper care is a must. Dental hygiene habits formed during a child’s infant years will reduce the risk of tooth decay as they become older, and it is crucial that you take good care of baby teeth because cavities are a common problem, and many kids will develop tooth decay before their 5th birthday. 

Decayed baby teeth may need to be taken out by the dentist, and this can be both painful and scary for a child. Missing baby teeth will also leave gaps in your child’s mouth which can cause nearby teeth to move around, and this may prevent your child’s permanent teeth from erupting properly, and they may need braces later on. Finally, kids need healthy teeth to speak clearly and to chew their food properly to experience healthy digestion.

Pediatric dentists recommend doing the following to keep your child’s teeth healthy:

  • Do not allow bottles in bed. Putting your child to sleep with a bottle will cause sugar to linger on teeth which will lead to tooth decay. Baby bottle tooth decay is a real thing, and this is why an infant should not have a bottle in their mouth while falling asleep. 
  • Care for pacifiers, cups and spoons with care. Bacteria can move from mouth to mouth, which is why you should not put a pacifier in your mouth and then give it to your child. You should also avoid tasting your baby’s food before offering them a bite from the same spoon, as tooth decay-causing bacteria can easily move from your mouth to theirs. 
  • Cleanse their mouth after each meal. It’s never too early to get into a healthy routine, and you should do this even before your infant’s first teeth break through. Wipe their gums with a clean and damp washcloth after each feeding, and once their baby teeth come in, switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush with just a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Once your child reaches the age of one, start a healthy routine of brushing twice a day. 
  • Teach your child to drink from a cup around their first birthday. This will help prevent tooth decay, and a pediatric dentist will recommend moving your child from the breast or bottle to a lidded cup around 12 months. You can continue to give your child milk at mealtimes, but you should fill your child’s cup with plain water in between. 
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Fruit juice and sweetened drinks are very unhealthy for a child’s teeth, and a pediatric dentist will always tell you to skip sugary drinks. 

Forest Hill Family Dental Has Your Back

Are you looking for a great pediatric dentist in Kitchener? Forest Hill Family Dental has years of experience with younger patients, and we will make sure your child feels safe and relaxed while sitting in a dental chair. Contact us today to schedule a dental appointment for your little one!

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