Milk Is Good for the Body, but can be Bad for Teeth.
Milk is Good for the Body, but Can be Bad for Teeth.
That’s right, milk can be good and bad at the same time! It may be difficult to understand how this statement can be true.
- A healthy diet during early childhood and infancy is essential to provide nutrients for optimal growth and development in the body and in the teeth. We have heard the old wives tale, ‘the baby sucked the calcium out of my teeth'. While this is not founded in science, it does kind of make sense. The outer layer of teeth is called enamel and is made of calcium phosphate that is embedded in a matrix and arranged in a crystal structure known as hydroxyapatite. So clearly calcium is a good and important part of developing healthy teeth. Additionally, recent research has shown that casein proteins in milk help prevent cavities and remineralize teeth that have been weakened.
- However, once a tooth has erupted into the infant’s mouth it is susceptible to getting dental decay. Past 12 months nocturnal feedings and frequent feedings have been associated with increased dental decay. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that babies are weaned from bottles between 12 and 14 months old. If baby needs a bottle or sippy cup at bedtime we encourage that you only use water. Children that take a bottle of milk, juice, or any sugary drink to bed are at risk of getting rampant dental decay.
Now for the Ugly
- Nursing bottle caries or baby bottle decay which now we call 'early childhood caries' continues to be a significant public health challenge. Inappropriate milk drinking habits can be extremely detrimental to a child's teeth. The cavities associated with this are often seen on the cheek side of the front teeth, however damage can be extended to all teeth in the mouth. This decay can be noted very young and can be very difficult to treat, often requiring sedation so that dental treatment can be completed.
What Can Be Done?
- Avoid putting baby to bed with a bottle of milk.
- Avoid frequent and on demand breast-feeding after teeth have erupted.
- Brush teeth or use wash cloth to clean baby's teeth after feeding.
- Use the appropriate amount of fluoridated toothpaste to strengthen teeth.
- Use professionally applied fluoride varnish to strengthen teeth.
- Limit the amount of juice or sugary beverages.
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