Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: Causes, Treatment and Prevention
Even though the very first baby teeth are only a temporary asset for your child’s oral cavity, it is simply impossible to underestimate their importance for the youngster’s dental and general health. They not only guarantee your infant’s future perfect smile, clear speech, and natural chewing pattern, but not everybody knows that strong baby teeth are the key to the health of future adult teeth.
Unfortunately, it is not easy at all to keep these pure whites in perfect condition. Like the permanent teeth, milk teeth are equally prone to tooth decay. This dental condition even has a separate name, when revealed at infant or toddler stage, which is “baby bottle tooth decay“.
What is more, the modern lifestyle with its soft diets, containing great amounts of sugar, makes it particularly difficult for parents to protect their children against this really widespread dental disorder. However, there are many techniques for prevention of baby bottle tooth decay, which will provide your child with a perfect set of healthy teeth for decades to come.
Why Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Dangerous for My Child?
As a result of badly infected, damaged, not to mention lost, milk teeth due to severe baby bottle tooth decay, your kid is likely to develop not only speech problems, but also digestive tract disorders, which result from a poor chewing pattern.
Finally, losing teeth in early childhood is closely linked to major orthodontic disorders in the future adult life.
What Are the Warning Signs of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Just like early dental caries in adults, baby bottle tooth decay first reveals itself in the form of barely noticeable chalky white marks on your child’s affected tooth. As the dental disease causes no physical discomfort or pain at this stage, it is almost impossible for parents with no medical education to notice baby bottle tooth decay early enough to start conservative treatment. This fact raises the most urgent need for regular dental check-ups for really young and even newborn patients.
The problem is that the chalky spots on your child’s teeth show that the oral bacteria which cause baby bottle tooth decay have started gradually eating the enamel layer of the affected tooth. In up to a year, the bacteria will be done with this strongest part of the tooth and spread into the pulp.
At this point, your baby will experience increasing acute pain, which reaches its peak as the harmful bacteria affect the tooth nerve. The white spot will gradually turn darker and acquire a more regular round shape, as the oral bacteria get deeper into the tooth.
Advanced baby bottle tooth decay calls for urgent dental treatment to save your child’s tooth. American Dental Association experts warn that any treatment delay at this stage is very likely to lead to the removal of the affected tooth as the only way to stop the harmful bacteria from spreading into the gum line or even neighboring teeth.
What Are the Peculiarities of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
ADA experts’ long-term studies have revealed that, unlike dental caries in adults, baby bottle tooth decay usually affects children’s upper teeth: this is associated with the root cause of the disease in kids. However, this does not mean that the lower teeth cannot be affected by these oral bacteria.
Remember that baby bottle tooth decay can affect your child’s teeth, starting with his very first milk tooth eruption. That is why all newborn children’s parents should be aware of the causes of dental disease way before their baby starts teething.
What Are the Causes of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
First of all, as follows from the very name of the dental disease, pediatric dental care providers all over the world associate the arrival of baby bottle tooth decay with prolonged, or simply frequent, milk teeth exposure to food or liquids containing sugar. These include not only artificially sweetened drinks like sodas or fruit juices, but even babies’ formulas and, potentially, their mothers’ milk.
These drinks get increasingly dangerous when your child consumes them before or during bedtime. The problem is that sugar creates a thin, sticky film around your baby’s teeth, which is actually the perfect long-term breeding environment for the oral bacteria which cause baby bottle tooth decay.
Secondly, these harmful bacteria can potentially be transmitted from the infant’s parents or any other caregivers, especially if they are in a particularly harmful habit of licking the child’s bottle, pacifier, or spoon with the misguiding intention of disinfecting it.
Is My Child in the High-Risk Group for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
In the high-risk group for baby bottle tooth decay are breast-fed infant patients with the habit of prolonged feeding periods. Also, many parents give their babies a bottle with sugar water or even dip the pacifier into honey or sugar to calm them down or relieve colic pains. However, such a homemade remedy considerably raises the activity of the bacteria which trigger baby bottle tooth decay.
When it comes to toddlers, those who are in the habit of eating sweets or drinking sugary liquids before, or even during their bedtime, run considerably higher risks of developing this dental disorder.
How Can Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Be Treated and Prevented?
To avoid painful dental fillings, not to mention tooth extraction procedures, it is essential to develop a couple of simple oral care and dietary habits in your child.
First of all, as mentioned above, avoid both frequent and prolonged consumption of foods and drinks containing sugar, not to mention sweetening your infant’s pacifier, which are generally known to trigger baby bottle tooth decay. Limit your kid’s sweets consumption, especially between his meals. Introduce plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits instead.
Secondly, take your time to maintain your newborn’s healthy oral care habits even before his very first milk tooth arrives.
Start with wiping his gum area with a soft clean cloth after each feeding. As soon as the first milk tooth cuts through your infant’s gum line, start cleaning it with a special small and soft toothbrush and water.
If you want to introduce non-fluoride toothpaste into your baby’s oral care routine even before his second birthday, remember to consult with the dentist. ADA experts suggest that the first visit to a dental care provider should take place somewhere between the ages of 6 and 12 months.
Thirdly, give your child a bottle of clean water after each feeding to prevent creation of an environment in your child’s oral cavity which is friendly to the bacteria which trigger baby bottle tooth decay. You can also try gradually diluting milk or formula with water several times a week.
In addition, make sure to wean your baby from the bottle as soon as he can use a cup, which should happen soon after his first birthday. However, do not take the bottle away from him too early.
Finally, do not underestimate the primary caregiver’s dental health influence on the infant’s dental health. Follow your oral hygiene more thoroughly than ever to prevent baby bottle tooth decay for your child.