Ask the Dentist: Baby teeth need grown up care

There's nothing cute about helping your baby grow a 'sweet tooth', explains Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast

close-up Baby mouth with two rises teeth
close-up Baby mouth with two rises teeth close-up Baby mouth with two rises teeth

A BABY'S teeth can turn black in a matter of months, ruining that cutesy smile and leaving the baby irritable and in pain. As soon as the first tooth breaks through the gum it's exposed to the elements, for better or worse.

When a baby's teeth decay it can be distressing for the child and the parents. Most times it is due to the baby being given something to eat or drink that fly under the radar of suspicion of the parent - an unintentional slip-up that leaves the milk teeth swimming in a damaging sea of hidden sugar.

The likes of fruit juice in a bottle, both cordial and the pure fruit juice varieties, will do it. But it's not just what's in the bottle that's the problem it's also the length of time the baby is allowed to suck on the bottle.

Even harmless looking milk given to a baby in a bottle and left in the cot overnight can wreak havoc to a baby's teeth.

There is also the habit of giving babies sugar water to calm them down. The earlier a child is introduced to sweet things the more likely they are to develop a 'sweet tooth', as the brain seeks the reward from sugar.

Teeth and the body can't withstand the onslaught of sugar and will fail with the effects being spectacularly unconducive for a happy life. As boring as it sounds try sticking to plain water and milk in the bottle.

So, getting that first visit to the dentist in early can catch many potential problems. Ideally a child would visit the dentist by their first birthday.

The first appointments don't need to take long, it's just getting the child used to being in a dental practice, meeting the dental team and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells.

If the child is a bit older, try explaining what they can expect to happen at their first dental appointment. There are many colourful books that can show them what to expect.

Try not to stress if the child doesn't 'behave'; it really doesn't matter, and over time they tend to get used to the dental check-up routine and settle down as they grow up.