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- Tap water is the best drink between meals and at bedtime
- Avoid drinking acidic and sugary drinks between meals
- Choose sugar-free medicine
- Breastfeed your baby until at least 6 months
- Always hold your baby when bottle feeding and take the bottle away when they’ve had enough
- Putting a baby to bed with a bottle can cause tooth decay
- Encourage your baby to drink from a cup at 6 months
- Discourage bottle feeding after 1 year
What you drink can affect your oral health, especially children. Tap water is much better for thirst than sugary drinks, which do not contribute to a healthy diet. Milk can provide the important calcium needed for teeth and bones.
It is best to avoid acidic, fizzy and sugary drinks but if you do drink them, have them at mealtimes. Have water or plain milk in – between meals.
Acidic, fizzy and sugary drinks can cause tooth surface loss, decay (related to sugar content), and erosion (related to acidity). They are particularly harmful when sipped slowly, or when they are swilled before swallowing. They should not be carried around in baby’s bottles, nursing cups, drink bottles for drinking occasionally: only tap water should be used in this way.
Erosion (the wearing away of a tooth surface due to chemicals) may occur due to the body’s sources of acidity (e.g. stomach reflux and vomiting) or outside sources, which include acidic drinks (e.g. alcohol, citrus-based and other juices, cordial, carbonated and uncarbonated drinks, sports drinks and herbal tea). In addition, long-term use of syrup medicines, which have high concentrations of sugars, can cause tooth decay and early gum disease. Ask the doctor to prescribe sugar-free medicines if available.
Exclusive breastfeeding to the age of six months gives the best nutritional start to infants. Early childhood decay (ECD) is a known problem in babies and toddlers, characterised by wide-spread and rapid tooth decay. Pacifying infants by giving them a bottle to suck on for long periods, or allowing them to fall asleep while continuing to feed from a bottle, have been identified as the major cause of ECD. Baby feeding bottles are best used only for breast milk or infant formula. Babies can learn to drink from a cup from about six to eight months of age.
Training cups for cool boiled water or formula can be useful in transition to a regular cup. The baby should be drinking from a cup and no longer drinking from a bottle by the time they are 12 months of age. “No spill” trainer cups pose oral health problems because they encourage prolonged sipping which can lead to extensive decay if they contain sweetened milk or juice. The sucking mechanism can also hide bacteria. The “free-flowing” cups are more hygienic and contribute to speech development and help the baby to learn to sip.