Children develop their taste preferences early in life and their dietary choices are heavily dependant on early experiences with food. Diet alone has a huge impact on a child’s dental decay risk. As we all know, diets high in sugar and easily fermentable carbohydrates can lead to dental decay. The outcome from a poor diet in infancy is a debilitating dental disease known as Early Childhood Caries (ECC) or Baby Bottle decay. Children and especially infants exposed to sugary drinks in bottles and pacifiers dipped in sweetened products are at an extremely high risk for this form of dental decay that can develop well before the second birthday. Unfortunately children with ECC require extensive and expensive dental treatment under a general anaesthetic in hospital. Infants with a diet high in sweetened foods and drinks develop high bacterial counts of the bad bugs known to cause dental decay, therefore limiting sugar in the diet has a huge impact on the reduction of decay causing bugs.
The introduction of solids and new foods not only impacts your child’s food preferences, but also their risk for dental decay for their entire life. Needless to say there is a huge importance in getting your infant’s diet right from the start. One of the biggest culprits in an infants diet is what they drink from the bottle. Relying heavily on fluids for sustenance, water and plain milk should be the only drinks offered in infants and children’s bottles. If your child needs a bottle to fall asleep, don’t be tempted to put anything other than water in their bottle. It is also recommended that all sweetened drinks are to be avoided as they are an unnecessary part of an infants diet. Fruit juices, cordial and soft drinks have been shown to increase the risk for decay, in turn increasing the bacterial count of bad bugs (Strp Mutans) in the mouth. Research shows that infants who are introduced to a savoury diet earlier than 7 months of age have a reduced incidence of dental decay throughout childhood. It is therefore beneficial to try and keep your infants diet simple and savoury when you begin to introduce solids.
So to reduce your infant’s risk of dental decay by taking their diet seriously from the beginning. Don’t allow your baby to go to sleep with anything other than water in a bottle, avoid all sweetened drinks in bottles and don’t offer your infant a pacifier dipped in sweetened products (i.e. honey). There are many sources of excellent information available on introducing your infant to a healthy diet so be sure to do your research before you begin. The mouth’s environment is under constant development in the first year of life, so remember that the steps you take now will have a hugely positive impact on your child’s dental and general health for the rest of their lives.