Pediatric dentists who study the effects of breastfeeding on oral development believe that one of the most beneficial contributors to healthy teeth and healthy jaw alignment is a breast in the mouth for as long as mother and baby are willing and able. Apparently the unique sucking action of breastfeeding helps prevent malocclusion. A saying we have heard in dental circles is, “Your infant’s breastfeeding efforts will later be reflected in his face.”
Keep your baby off a steady diet of highly sugared junk foods, especially lollipops, caramel, and hard candy that stick and lodge between teeth and have a long-enough contact time for germs and enamel to get well acquainted. Tooth decay begins with the formation of plaque—a sticky film that forms on the teeth and provides a residence for decay-promoting germs. The bacteria and the plaque react with sugar in the food, creating a decay- producing acid. The more plaque, the more decay. The goal of dental hygiene, therefore, is to keep the plaque from forming in the first place by frequent brushing and keeping sugar off the teeth by a healthy diet. When our toddlers would protest toothbrushing, we’d tell them it was to wipe off the “sugar bugs.”
Bottles are unfriendly to a sleeping baby’s teeth. Especially blacklist honey-dipped pacifiers. When baby falls asleep, saliva flow decreases, diminishing its natural rinsing action on the teeth. The sugary stuff bathes the teeth. Plaque and bacteria have an enamel feast, resulting in severe tooth decay called “bottle mouth.” If baby is hooked on a nap or nighttime bottle, try watering down the juice or milk each night until it’s all water. If baby clings to his nighttime bottle and won’t settle for a diluted substitute, be sure to brush his teeth well first thing in the morning.