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We have all been taught of the importance milk plays in developing strong bones and healthy bodies.  Although this is true, it is also just as important for a young one to not have constant exposure to milk.  A prime example of this is when a toddler is allowed to go to sleep while drinking a bottle or sippy cup of milk.   By doing this we may think we are giving our little ones the “best”.  But, milk can have a very damaging effect on their teeth when this is done.   The natural sugars that milk contains can cause tooth decay.   When a child sleeps, any un-swallowed liquid in their mouth feeds bacteria that can produce acids and attack the teeth.  This includes milk, formula, juice or any sweetened liquid. 

The way to protect the child from severe tooth decay is by putting them to bed with nothing more than a bottle of water.  I know you are probably thinking “Yeah, right!  My child would scream for hours with that”.  Fast forward in your mind to age 3 when they may need to have several teeth worked on because of decay caused from putting them to sleep with one of these sugary drinks.  This can be scary for both the child and parent, not to mention the cost involved.  We want all kids to have easy, pleasant dental visits. 

So what can you do to help avoid oral health problems?  Here are the Missouri Department of Health’s suggestions on how to handle common oral health problems.

·         At-will breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt and other sources of nutrition have been introduced.

·         Children should not fall asleep with a bottle containing anything other than water.

·         Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided.

·         Babies should wean to a cup by age 1.

·         Fruit juice should only be offered in a cup with meals or at snack time.

·         Limit sugary snacks and juices.

·         Help your child brush their teeth twice a day.  Babies without teeth should have their gums wiped with a soft cloth. 

·         Periodically look in your child’s mouth.  Changes in tooth color or swelling of the gums may be a sign that you need to contact the dentist. 

·         If your primary source of water is from a well, ask a dentist about using fluoride tabs.

Tooth decay is the number 1 childhood chronic disease.  You are your child’s first defense to keep them from developing tooth decay.  Help them to develop good habits!

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