Taking the appropriate preventative measures to prevent tooth decay in your children should start before your baby gets his first tooth. Regular visits to your pediatric dentist will be beneficial for learning how to keep your baby’s teeth and gums clean and free of cavities throughout their early years, as well as help your child learn self-care techniques as your child grows. As soon as your baby’s teeth appear, you'll need to watch our for bottle tooth decay.
What Causes Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby bottle tooth is decay is caused by sweet and acidic liquids that cling to an infant’s teeth. The mouth naturally has bacteria, but these bacteria feed off of the sugars in liquids such as formula, milk and juice, creating acids that attack the teeth. Each time your infant drinks sugary liquids, the acid resides on the teeth and will continue to eat away at the enamel for a minimum of 20-minutes. Over time, as the enamel wears away the bacteria causes the teeth to decay. This condition is also often associated with breastfed infants who have prolonged feeding habits as well as in children who use a pacifier that is frequently dipped in sugar, juice and/or honey.
The amount of saliva decreases while sleeping, which helps to rinse away the sugary liquids. For this reason, the risk of cavities increases if the fluids remain in their mouth while sleeping and if the infant falls asleep with a bottle. Bottle tooth decay typically occurs on the incisors (front teeth), but it can affect all teeth.
What Signs Should I Look Out For?
It is important to understand that bottle tooth decay can occur in any of the child’s teeth. It typically appears as brown or dark spots on the teeth and, as it worsens, the child may experience swelling and pain on his gums and around the teeth. If tooth decay is left untreated there are a number of complications that may result, including:
- Severe pain
- Difficulty speaking
- Chewing problems
- Problems smiling
Your child’s baby teeth hold the space for their adult teeth and without appropriate oral health care, premature tooth loss may occur. Baby bottle tooth decay may also lead to crooked and/or crowded adult teeth.
How Can I Prevent Bottle Tooth Decay?
By being conscious of your child’s bottle feeding habits and properly cleaning their teeth, it may be possible to prevent bottle tooth decay. Some of the ways to prevent bottle tooth decay include:
- Do not put your baby to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.
- Do not let your child play and walk around with a bottle of milk, formula or juice dangling from his mouth.
- Avoid using sugar water, juices or soft drinks in baby bottles.
- Encourage your child to learn how to drink from a cup at around 6 months of age.
- Avoid the use of a pacifier, especially when dipped in honey, sugar water or syrup.
Activities for plaque removal should start even before the eruption of your child’s first baby tooth. Cleaning your infant’s gums with a clean, damp cloth will help to keep their gums clean and healthy. As soon as their first baby tooth erupts, use a soft toothbrush with a small amount (about pea size) of fluoride toothpaste. Your child’s first pediatric dentist appointment should occur within three to six months after their first tooth appears.
Contact Wright Smiles Pediatric Dentistry to learn more information about baby bottle tooth decay or to schedule an examination for your child. We provide a wide range of pediatric dental services and we are now accepting new patients!