Dentists suggest a number of tips for parents to prevent the decay of baby teeth:
Take an infant to a dentist before the first birthday for an assessment of cavity risk, even if the child has only a few teeth.
In general, brush the teeth of children 2 or younger with a bit of fluoride toothpaste twice a day. At 2, start to use a pea-size dollop.
Reduce snacking. Eating any starchy or sugary food causes the pH level in the mouth to drop sharply, leaving teeth awash in an acid bath — murder on enamel — for 20 minutes until saliva normalizes the pH. The frequency of exposure to acid is more important than the sugar content of food.
Do not share utensils with a child or “clean” a pacifier in your mouth, then give it to your infant.
Research has shown that parents or caregivers with active tooth decay can pass cavity-causing bacteria via saliva.
Brush preschoolers’ teeth for them. “They are not in a position to effectively brush their teeth until they are 7 or 9,” said Dr. John Hanna, the director at the pediatric dental surgery clinic at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
CATHERINE SAINT LOUIS