If you can limit sugar in your baby's diet, they will have a head start on the prevention of cavities.
The Formula for Success
We all know that sugar is bad for the teeth, but did you know that many baby formulas contain sugar? If you use formula, it's worth doing a little research before choosing which one to use. Grams of sugar may not be listed on the formula's label. This is because the Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers of formula to list sugar amounts. Only total carbohydrates are listed. According to Chicago pediatric dentist, Kevin Boyd, "We're conditioning (children) to crave sweetness." He calls formulas with sugar "baby milkshakes" and believes that they may be contributing to high levels of childhood obesity. To find the formula that is right for your child, check out sites such as BabyFormulaExpert.com which compare the amounts of sugar in baby formula.
Baby Bottle Blues
Once you've chosen a formula, or even if you are breastfeeding your baby, you should be aware of baby bottle tooth decay. Sweetened liquids, such as formula or sweetened fruit juice, or liquids containing natural sugars such as milk, fruit juice, or some formulas cling to an infant's teeth for a long time if the baby is given a bottle at naptime or nighttime. Bacteria in the mouth use this sugar to make acids that attack the teeth. The flow of saliva decreases while your child sleeps, allowing the sugar more time to work. Helpful tips for preventing baby bottle tooth decay can be found at WebMD.com and here.
Fruit juice is not necessary for your baby's diet and can contribute to tooth decay, especially if it contains added sugar. But even the natural sugar in fruit juice is bad for teeth, so avoid it for at least the first 12 months. Sports drinks also contain large amounts of sugar and should be avoided. Water and milk are best for toddlers since water contains no calories or sugar and milk is high in calcium which is good for teeth. Visit KidsHealth.org to compare the amount of sugar in various drinks.
Once your child begins to eat solid foods, it is important to limit sweets to special occasions. Giving sweets regularly will cause your child to become accustomed to sugar which is bad for the teeth and can lead to obesity. Model healthy food choices, and create habits for healthy eating. Watch out for "hidden sugars" which may even be found in foods that are specifically marketed to children. Even "healthy" foods such as yogurt and cereals may contain too much sugar. Because sugar can have a variety of names, such as high fructose corn syrup, it can be difficult to detect when reading nutrition labels. To familiarize yourself with some of these names, visit sites like SugarScience.org.
Even Healthy Foods May Cause Decay
Foods containing a lot of acid such as citrus fruits and tomatoes can erode your child's tooth enamel if eaten frequently. This could lead to tooth decay over time, so limit acidic foods in the diet. Sticky foods can also cause tooth decay because they cling to the teeth longer. Even though they are considered healthy, foods such as raisins and other dried fruits should be limited. Even gummy vitamins can contain sugar which may cling to the teeth. Have your child brush his or her teeth after eating these sticky foods to prevent decay.