Your dental health affects your baby

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, dental caries, also known as tooth decay, is a transmissible infectious disease and the major reservoir from which infants acquire cariogenic bacteria (e.g., mutans streptococci, MS) is their mother’s saliva. In other words, mothers and/or primary caregivers pass on bacteria to their babies through the sharing of utensils, blowing on a baby’s food, licking a pacifier, etc.

If the mother/caregiver has high levels of MS, the baby has a greater risk of acquiring the bacteria sooner than babies whose mothers have low levels. So, it is important for your baby, as well as yourself, to take care of your teeth.

Other family members and playmates can also transmit MS. If you eliminate saliva-sharing activities (sharing a bottle, spoon, pacifier, etc.) you can decrease the transmission of the bacteria.

Bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, breast-feeding:
All of the above can contribute to the development of early childhood caries. Frequent and prolonged exposure to liquids that contain sugar (fermentable carbohydrates) by baby bottles, sippy (training) cups, and even breast-feeding can lead to tooth decay. These liquids include juice, soda (even diet!), formula and breast milk. The problem arises when these liquids pool around the teeth, allowing the bacteria to “feed” on the sugar and produce acids that attack the teeth. This is especially true when you put your baby to bed with a bottle containing something other than water — this is a big no-no!

Other things not to do:
• Dip a pacifier in honey or other sweetener.

• Give frequent between-meal snacks and beverages that are sugary.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces of fruit juice per day for 1 to 6 year olds.

Also, you should dilute juice with water to reduce the sugar content.
Both the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advise parents and caregivers to:

• Discourage prolonged use of a sippy cup (it’s a tool for transitioning from a bottle to a cup)

• Encourage children to drink from a regular cup by 1 years old

• Wean a baby from the bottle by 14 months old

• Help your child develop healthy eating habits

• Serve nutritious snacks

• Limit sweets to mealtimes

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(Courtesy of the 86th Dental Squadron, the AAPD and