Nursing

Breastfeeding provides a multitude of physical and emotional benefits to both child and mom. Nursing itself doesn’t cause dental cavities but combined with the introduction of solid food, it can lead to problems. Get into the habit of wiping your child’s gums and teeth after each nursing session from an early age to obtain optimal oral hygiene. After your baby turns one, we recommend that nursing is done at scheduled times rather than on-demand and that you start weaning them from night-time nursing sessions.

Bottle Feeding 

Formula, cow, or goat milk can easily cause dental cavities if left sitting on the surfaces of teeth for an extended time. It is very important to start developing the habit of wiping or brushing the teeth, gums, and tongue after each feeding, especially at night time. Extended bottle use can cause dental decay and also lead to deviations in dental or jaw development. Starting at age one, we recommend transitioning to using regular cups. If your child is strongly attached to drinking milk from a bottle, try diluting it with water. Ask Dr. Fran and staff for other helpful tips.

Pacifiers

Dr. Fran recommends that children are weaned from their soother before age three. Extended use of a pacifier can lead to misaligned teeth and misshapen jaw development which may necessitate orthodontic interventions. There are many creative ways to help your child wean off the soother and it is important to gauge what may work the best for your own child.

Some may do well with the cold-turkey approach while other children may need a little more preparation and imagination. Sucking on a soother is a comforting habit and coping mechanism for many children so take care not to overlap the weaning process with other major life changes e.g. introducing a new baby, changes in daycare, potty training.

Thumb or Finger Sucking

It goes without saying that this is a difficult habit to curb since your child has access to their fingers and thumbs all the time! However, continuing this habit after the age of three can lead to misalignment of the front teeth and narrowing of the palate which may need orthodontic treatment.

It’s useful to gain insight as to when and why your child is finger or thumb sucking. Usually, this is an expression of an unconscious desire to soothe and cope with stress. It may also happen when your child is in a new environment, meeting new people, falling asleep or simply when they’re bored. Once this is recognized, help your child understand and recognize that their fingers or thumb are going into their mouth. From age three, children can start understanding cause and effect and this is when you can start talking to them about the eventual outcome of this habit.

If your child is willing to stop the habit and simply needs a reminder to take the thumb/finger out of their mouth, you may consider using sour nail polish (e.g. Mavala) or a thumb guard (e.g. Aero Thumb).