Children and bad dental habits

Most future and long-term dental problems can be preventing by creating good dental habits in childhood. For parents who are concerned about their child’s dental habits, the doctors and hygienists at Grand Dental Group can help.

The number one dental problem in children is dental decay, or cavities. In older kids, poor brushing and flossing habits and a sugary diet are the main causes. However, nearly all dental problems in toddlers and young children are directly related to the use of sippy cups and bottles, and chronic nighttime feeding.

Why are sippy cups bad for teeth?

Sippy cups themselves are generally not a problem. Specifically, it is the liquid in the sippy cup and when they are used that is the issue. Using them during the day and at night does not necessarily cause dental decay. Sippy cups with water or significantly diluted juice are also unlikely to contribute to cavities. However, juice, pop, or milk-filled sippy cups given to a child at night or left in their crib or bed can lead to dental trouble. How does this happen? Milk, juice and pop all contain sugars. When a sippy cup is left within a child’s reach, the child could now potentially coat their teeth with sugar for several hours at a time. Saliva is a natural cavity-fighter. But saliva flow is reduced at night, making the child’s teeth even more vulnerable. Occasional and rare nighttime sippy cup use is not likely to cause cavities. However, once children get used to falling asleep with the comfort of a sippy cup, the habit is hard to break.

Why are bottles bad for teeth?

The same issue pertains to infants and their bottles. Bottles of breastmilk, formula, juice, or milk can also contribute to tooth decay when a child has access to them all night long. Dentists and pediatrician refer to cavities caused by bottle use as “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay”. Soothing a fussy baby or a sick toddler with a rare nighttime bottle should not be cause for alarm – and we all know that parents need to pick their battles sometimes! The concern comes when babies and infants go to bed with a bottle all night on a regular basis. Water is the best choice when giving a bottle to a baby overnight.

In addition to their use at night, bottles and sippy cup use during the day can mean trouble because children tend to graze when they have access to these items. Bottles and cups left within reach of a toddler or young child mean they have the potential to chronically bathe their teeth in sugary substances all day long. This constant and repetitive exposure to sugars leave the teeth vulnerable to decay. When possible, milk, juice and formula should be given with meals or snacks only. Water is the drink of choice during the day and night.

Nighttime breastfeeding

Breastmilk has naturally occurring sugars that are necessary for brain and physical development. However, these sugars can also contribute to tooth decay in infants and toddlers. To reduce the risk of cavities, nursing mothers can attempt to limit the amount of time spent nursing at night and clean their child’s teeth after nursing.

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