Dental Care Tips for Children: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Dental Care Tips for Children: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

By Doctor Howard Lee

Tooth decay is among the most widespread diseases children suffer from.

It is called early childhood caries (cavities) when it occurs in children ages six and younger, and we even have a special name for it when it occurs in infants or children who still have their temporary teeth – we call it baby bottle tooth decay.

And even though baby bottle tooth decay only happens to baby (temporary) teeth, it is of concern to the general dental health of your child as they grow.

At the Ulladulla Dental Centre we emphasise the importance of tooth-care from a very young age, and the threat of baby bottle tooth decay is one that we want parents to know all about, so it can be detected and dealt with.

What is Baby Bottle Rot?

Baby bottle tooth decay is a dental condition caused by improper use of baby bottles that causes rapid decay in many or all the baby teeth of an infant or child. The teeth most likely to be damaged are the upper front teeth, although all teeth can be affected.

Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by over-exposure of a child’s teeth to liquids containing sugars.

If a baby falls asleep with:

A bottle containing formula, milk or juice.

A pacifier dipped in honey.

While breastfeeding.

The sugary liquid pools around the front teeth, feeding oral bacteria that excrete acid, causing decay.

The Importance Of Avoiding Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

It’s a common misconception that losing baby teeth early isn’t a problem. The idea behind this is that the teeth are going to fall out anyway, so why worry? In fact, there are multiple reasons to be worried about early loss of baby teeth.

Baby teeth hold the spaces permanent teeth will grow into. If they are lost early, the spacing of the permanent teeth can be adversely affected, leading to misaligned permanent teeth along with other issues that could require orthodontic treatment, later.

Other problems can arise as well:

Early tooth loss can affect the ability to eat a healthy diet.

Early tooth loss can harm the ability to speak properly. Proper pronunciation calls for the presence of front teeth, so if they are lost early, the ability to speak well can be lost as well.

Bad hygiene habits could follow your child into adolescence and adulthood.

The best way to deal with baby bottle tooth decay is to prevent it.

Symptoms Of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Parents may not know there is a problem until serious damage has been done:

Oral checks should be performed by parents to detect early signs of the disease.

Brown spots along the gumline on your child’s teeth are signs which should alert you.

If your child prefers soft foods, frowns or cries when eating cold, sweet, or hard foods, they should be checked for tooth decay.

But again, prevention is the best approach.

Preventing Tooth Decay In Babies

Take the following advice to fight early tooth decay:

Birth to 12 months: Clean your baby’s mouth by wiping the gums with a clean baby washcloth. Once you see the first tooth, gently brush using a baby toothbrush and a dab of toothpaste.

12 to 36 months: Brush your child’s teeth twice a day for at least two minutes. The best times for brushing are after breakfast and before bed.

Never let your child sleep with a bottle or food. It not only leads to bottle rot, but also creates a risk of ear infections and choking.

Don’t use a bottle as a pacifier or let your child walk around with or drink from one for long periods, unless it contains only water.

Introduce your child to drinking from regular cup as soon as possible, by 12 to 15 months of age if possible. Drinking from a cup is less likely to cause liquid to pool around the teeth and cannot be taken to bed.

Make an appointment to have your child see us at Ulladulla Dental Centre before the age of one year. Not only can we check for decay, but it starts to get your child use to a regular routine of dental care.