The DOs and DON'Ts of Baby Dental Care

Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking

Pacifiers have both advantages and disadvantages. Pacifiers, which exert less abnormal pressure on the teeth than a thumb or other fingers, might prevent thumb sucking and thereby reduce the risk of developing severe malocclusion (overbite) and abnormal growth patterns of the structures that support the teeth (the maxilla and the mandible).

If thumb sucking continues after the permanent teeth have erupted, it has an even higher probability of causing permanent damage. Pacifier use can be controlled in a child in contrast to an appendage such as a thumb. Pacifiers have also been associated with a reduced incidence of SIDS.

It has been shown that long term use of pacifiers can cause dental problems. Misalignment of the teeth or malocclusions have been reported when infants use them beyond the age of 4. There is also a higher risk of ear infections with their continuing use. Limiting the use of pacifiers to the first 6 months or limiting their use to sleep times is recommended. Continuous use of pacifiers may also stunt speech development.

There is little evidence that orthodontic pacifiers are any better than conventional ones.

Choose pacifiers made of a more durable substance like silicon rather than latex, and be sure that the pacifier is made in one piece to avoid smaller parts from being detached and swallowed.

Pacifiers have not been associated with cavities but pacifiers should not be coated with sweets. Contrary to popular belief, pacifiers do not shorten the duration of breast feeding.

Baby Bottle Syndrome

This syndrome, resulting from excessive baby bottle use, is characterized by the development of severe tooth decay with pain and infection. It can lead to extractions and extensive dental treatment.

Bacteria in the mouth use milk and other sweetened beverages for metabolism and create an acidic environment in the mouth causing the destruction of tooth enamel and creating cavities. Children suffering from baby bottle syndrome feed poorly and often fail to thrive. The damage initially appears as white lesions on the teeth and then later progresses to brown or black discoloration.

When the damage is severe, the crowns break down and permanent teeth may also be damaged. Malnutrition, with deficiencies in calcium and Vitamin D, may also lead to tooth enamel defects which predisposes the teeth to caries. The overall incidence of baby bottle syndrome varies from 3% to 6% in the general population but can be as high as 72% depending upon the population. The teeth most affected are the maximally and mandibular primary incisors followed by the primary molars.

Breast fed babies, although less likely to develop cavities compared to formula fed babies, can develop baby bottle syndrome when feeding is done on demand. Breast milk does not support the growth of bacteria, doesn't lower the acidity in the mouth and is therefore not as destructive. This is another reason why all mothers should be encouraged to breast feed their infants. Proper use of nipple gels will help heal the chapped, sore breasts that often prevent women from continuing breast feeding.

DOs and DON'Ts of Proper Infant Dental Care

Things to Do

  • Mouth cleaning in infancy should be part of a daily routine.
  • Clean gums, newly erupted teeth, (after 6 months of age) and tongue, with clean washcloth, piece of gauze, or very soft moist toothbrush after feedings and before bed.
  • Clean mouth with toothbrush or washcloth after giving sweetened medications.
  • Introduce solid foods after 6 months of age and avoid cariogenic foods.
  • Bottles should only contain plain water if being given for naps, bed or pacifier.
  • Schedule first dental visit after the first year of life.
  • Encourage breast feeding, especially for the first 6 months of life when fluoride is not recommended.

Things NOT to Do


This is a most controversial and deep subject.. there exists people who have dedicated their whole lives to expose what fluoride actually is. One thing should be noted is the type of fluoride that is distributed throughout our water system as well as the aforementioned tooth paste is not the one that exists in nature; instead is a chemical by product waste from something else. Sometimes there are things you rather not know about though.. ignorance is bliss? Or awareness is power? Either way, fluoride builds up in tissues and effects a wide range of functions from brain function the hormone secretion. good luck.

By the way if in search of fluoride free tooth paste your nearest health food grocer should be able to accustom to your needs.. then you don't have to wait for it online and deal with shipping and all that. I alternate from tom's and Ayurveda brand toothpastes.

~Abby D. Rios