What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby teeth are very important as they are susceptible to cavities too. Healthy and strong teeth help to chew food thoroughly, speak properly and ensure their permanent teeth come in correctly. It's also crucial to get into healthy dental habits as early as possible because tooth decay may develop with the appearance of the very first tooth. Tooth decay is the most common dental disease among infants and children. Such tooth decay is also known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, Early Childhood Caries or Nursing Bottle Mouth.
Causes of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay commonly occurs when a child's teeth and gums are frequently exposed to sugary liquids for long periods of time. The sugars in such liquids as formula, milk, fruit juice or soft drinks constantly pool around the child's teeth and gums and, therefore, provide a good environment for bacteria in the mouth. They feed on this sugar, multiply and produce acid as a waste product that attacks the tooth enamel and gums. After multiple attacks, tooth decay can begin.
Tooth decay may develop with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from parents or caregivers to babies through saliva. For example, when a mother puts a baby's feeding spoon in her mouth or cleans a pacifier in her mouth.
Tooth decay can occur when an infant is put to bed with a bottle at nap time or nighttime. Sugary drinks left in the mouth while the baby is sleeping increase the chances of cavities as the flow of saliva decreases during sleep. Children whose pacifiers are frequently dipped in sugar, syrup or honey are also put at risk.
Signs and Complications of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay most commonly appears in the upper front teeth (called ‘upper incisors’), but other teeth may also be affected. Tooth decay may occur as white or brown spots on the teeth. As the decay gets worse, a baby might feel pain and swelling around the teeth. Thus diseased baby teeth need to be examined and treated as soon as possible to prevent further spreading.
Primary teeth are necessary for chewing, speaking, and smiling as well as for holding the space for adult teeth. Untreated baby bottle tooth decay can cause pain and infection. Severely decayed teeth may need extensive restoration treatments or even need to be extracted. Widespread tooth decay or too early teeth loss can be the reason for poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked and damaged adult teeth. Healthy and strong primary teeth are commonly replaced by healthy permanent teeth.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
But we have good news for you: baby bottle tooth decay can be prevented. It's possible to stave off tooth decay by being conscious of your child’s bottle-feeding habits and implementing good oral hygiene at an early age.
. Avoid sharing utensils and other items that come in contact with your baby’s teeth to avoid passing your saliva to your baby’s mouth.
. After each feeding, clean and massage the baby's gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. It helps to establish healthy teeth eruption.
. It's desirable to start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as the first tooth comes in. You can use either a soft toothbrush with water only or put a smear of fluoride-free toothpaste on a toothbrush. After the baby's first birthday you can brush the teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste that helps the teeth resist acid.
. Fill the bottle only with formula, milk or water, and never place juice, soft drinks or other sugary liquids in your child's bottle. You should never allow your baby to fall asleep with a bottle unless it contains plain water.
. Never give your baby a pacifier dipped in sugar, honey or syrup.
. Limit the amount of juice you give your child - no more than 6 ounces per day for infants. Babies under 6 months are not recommended to drink juice at all.
. Try to teach your child to drink from a regular cup by his/her first birthday. It's a good preventive way to avoid liquid pooling around the teeth for long periods.
. Healthy eating habits are also important. Parents should reduce consumption of sugar and sweet food or drinks, especially between the meals.
Every child in his/her toddler years should visit a dentist to have a thorough initial dental examination and to detect potential problems with your baby’s teeth. Your dentist may also offer special sealant coatings to prevent further tooth decay. With proper oral care, your child can grow up to have strong and healthy teeth for the rest of his/her life.
Alpha Dental Care provides children's dentistry services for the residents in Milton. To book an appointment for an initial consultation or in case of emergency, just call us at 905-876-0200.