Delta Dental News Room


Top 7 Reasons Why a Baby's Oral Health Care Should Begin at Birth

One out of five caregivers puts their child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice every night


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OAK BROOK, Ill. (Feb. 29, 2012) - Most American caregivers don't realize that cavities are nearly 100 percent preventable, according to a survey of American children's oral health by Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA).1 Tooth decay can develop any time after the teeth erupt into the mouth starting at about 6 months of age. So, it's important to establish good oral health habits from birth to keep away cavity-causing bacteria.

"Caregivers might think that caring for their child's baby teeth is less important because they will eventually fall out," said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, DDPA's vice president of dental science and policy. "But baby teeth help children chew and speak properly and hold space for permanent teeth. If your child has healthy baby teeth, chances are he or she will have healthy adult teeth, too. The opposite also holds true. The best predictor of decay in the permanent teeth is decay in the baby teeth."

Before the first tooth erupts, dentists recommend that caregivers wipe their baby's gums with a damp washcloth or soft infant toothbrush after meals. Cleaning the baby's gums will help keep bacteria levels low and maintain a clean home for new teeth. According to the survey, while almost three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) knew correctly that it's important to clean a baby's gums with a soft cloth before the teeth surface, 28 percent reported never cleaning their baby's gums.

Nearly one out of five caregivers (17 percent) with a child 4 years old or younger report that he or she goes to bed every night with a bottle or sippy cup containing milk or juice. "Caregivers should not put a child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, sweetened water or soft drinks," Kohn advised. "The frequent exposure to sugar can lead to severe tooth decay—often called baby bottle decay. Instead, caregivers should fill the bottle with water."

Here are some additional steps you can take to ensure your little one has a healthy smile through childhood and into adulthood.

The not-for-profit Delta Dental Plans Association (, based in Oak Brook, IL, is the leading national network of independent dental service corporations. It provides dental benefits programs to more than 56 million Americans in more than 95,000 employee groups throughout the country. For more oral health news and information from Dr. Kohn and DDPA, subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter.


1Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is +/-3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.