Putting a child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice can cause a rampant, severe case of cavities. When a child is dozing off to sleep with a bottle, the liquid will tend to pool around the front teeth. The sugar in the liquid is the fuel that the cavity causing bacteria use to produce acids which eat away at the tooth enamel. Baby bottle cavities are characterized by a significant number of cavities in the front teeth. The decay can result in such deep cavities that could cause pain and accesses. The choices to take care of the problem is either expensive restoration or removal of the teeth. Since the front teeth are not as important for maintaining space for the permanent teeth, removal is not a bad option, however, it can have psychological effects on the child one they go to school. Therefore, prevention is the best policy. If the child does need a bottle to go to sleep, then it should only have water in it.
You should brush your children’s teeth twice a day. Afterwards, I recommend giving the toothbrush and floss to them to let them go through the motions. Even though they will probably not do the most thorough job, at least they get into the routine of good habits which should help them throughout the rest of their life. You should use a children’s size of toothbrush so that you can access all parts of their tiny mouths. The toothpaste should be one that has been approved by the American Dental Association. It should have fluoride in order to help strengthen the enamel and make them more resistant to cavities. You should only use enough toothpaste to form the size of a pea. And your child should spit out the excess toothpaste when you are done. Swallowing a little bit of toothpaste won’t hurt anything, however, ingesting moderate amounts can cause a condition called fluorosis which is white splotchiness of the tooth enamel. Ingesting large amounts can be toxic and so you should monitor your child.
Young children do not have the manual dexterity to brush and floss their teeth on their own. Therefore, you must take a toothbrush to their teeth at least twice a day. When my kids were small, I would sit down in the bathroom and have them lay their heads back into my lap. That gave me plenty of access to all of their teeth. It would only take a half a minute to scrub their pearly whites. As they got older, I could have them tilt their heads back from the standing position. Once the last set of baby molars come in, you must start flossing their teeth. You only need to floss between the molars since those areas are prone to decay and will be around for number of years. You can use regular floss or you can use a floss-pick, the little “U”-shaped device that holds a short piece of floss taut and has a handle to hold on to. For children, it is best to get the floss-pick that have safety handles so that there are no sharp ends to injure your child.