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 Natural Awakenings Lancaster-Berks

Healthy Oral Habits Begin at Home

by Baillee Fahey

Happy, healthy smiles are a result of repetition. Parents are able to develop healthy oral habits through repeating healthy choices for their infant. Instead of focusing on correcting behavior, parents of a newborn can teach healthy oral habits from the beginning. By focusing on two habits, parents can protect their infant from decay-causing bacteria.

From a baby’s first days at home, developing the habit of putting the baby to bed without a bottle will protect the infant’s toothless smile and reduce the risk for tooth decay. When parents repeatedly put their infant to bed with a bottle, a dangerous and hard-to-break habit develops. According to the American Dental Association, as the sugars in the formula or milk cover the baby’s gums and tongue, decay-causing bacteria begins to grow. These bacteria could then infect the baby’s first teeth long before their first visit to the dentist.

What we put in our baby’s bottle will lead to the habits they have later in life. Through daily repetition of healthy beverage habits, parents may protect their infants’ deciduous (baby) and adult teeth from bacterial infection. Decay-causing bacteria requires sugars to live, grow and multiply. The longer sugars are present in the mouth, the stronger decay-causing bacteria bind to the gums, tongue and teeth.

If infants and toddlers receive regular or diluted juice and milk in their bottles throughout the day, the dangerous habit of feeding decay-causing bacteria develops. Limiting juice and milk to mealtimes can decrease the amount of sugar fed to bacteria. Water in the bottle throughout the day can keep baby hydrated and fosters a healthy habit.

Feedings, diaper changes and nap time develop into habits through repetition. Early on in the baby’s life, parents can integrate healthy oral actions. The habit of going to bed without a bottle and drinking water between meals will protect baby’s teeth from bacterial infection. Parents have the opportunity to make healthy oral choices for their infant to help protect their teeth for years to come.

Dr. Baillee Fahey is a general dentist with a passion for public education. Connect with her by email at [email protected].