Baby bottle tooth decay (formerly nursing caries) - is a dental condition that occurs in children between 12 months and 3 years of age as a result of being given a bottle at bedtime, or at will breast feeding, resulting in prolonged exposure of the teeth to milk or juice. Caries are formed because pools of milk or juice in the mouth break down to lactic acid and other decay-causing substances. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay preventive measures include elimination of the bedtime feeding or substitution of water for milk or juice in the nighttime bottle, scheduled nursing, wiping out the mouth with a wash cloth, and following feedings with water.
We all want what is best for our children and that includes making them happy. Parents hate to see their baby cry for any reason especially at bedtime. But did you know feeding a child at bedtime or even through the night can create dental havoc for them?
Even though baby teeth are temporary in nature, your children’s baby teeth are important for many years, and are still susceptible to tooth decay. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, or Early Childhood Caries. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and for a cosmetically pleasing smile. Their first teeth also help make sure their adult teeth come in correctly. It’s important to start infants off with good oral care to help protect their future teeth for decades to come.
What Happens In Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay usually affects the upper front teeth, but other teeth can also be affected. There are a variety of reasons which can cause baby bottle tooth decay. One common cause is the frequent, continuous exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. Milk contains natural sugar, called lactose, but even though it is natural it is still sugar, so staying in the mouth without cleanup will form acid which leads to decay . Baby bottle tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. While milk contains some natural sugar, juice is primarily sugar. A baby requires milk, while juice is completely unnecessary. Most sugary drinks that parents give their children, are things that they think will taste good, but not what a baby needs. Milk and water to drink and fruit to eat, is the best way to incorporate the healthy attributes of nutrition without making our children prone to sugar causing tooth decay.
Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is a disease that can begin with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria can be passed to the baby. However, this only puts a child at higher risk, proper hygiene and nutrition will negate those effects. The earlier you start with sugar, the more addicted to sweets your child will be. They can not make the right choices yet, you have to do it for them.
If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride in their water, they may also have an increased risk for tooth decay in their developing teeth. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable with proper oral hygiene practices.
Tips to Avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
-Do not share feeding spoons with baby or lick their pacifier. After each feeding for your infant, exercise good oral hygiene by wiping your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or even a washcloth, or give them some water to drink..
-Schedule visit to dentist by age 1. This can be a purely educational visit as you learn what needs to be done to protect their teeth as they come in, and make it fun.
-When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and water or a childrens’ toothpaste without fluoride. Talk to your child’s dentist or physician if you are considering using fluoride toothpaste before age 2. Generally, fluoride is not recommended until a child will swish and spit, and not swallow the toothpaste.
-Brush the teeth with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste from the ages of 2 to 6. Most kids are not able to properly brush on their own. Parents need to brush for them, and then let them try at the end. Young children will try, but do not do a thorough job.
-Supervise brushing until your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste. By about age 7 ,most kids are able to brush properly on their own.
-Place only formula, milk or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
-Infants should finish their bedtime and nap time bottles before going to bed.
-If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean. DO NOT dip it in sugar or honey.
-Encourage your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
-Encourage healthy eating habits.
Conclusion To Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
It is important to get children started on a path to good health. This includes practicing good dental hygiene. Schedule a dental visit for your child by age 1 or when the first tooth appears. For most this first dental visit is a well check and more about education than treatment. Oral care, when started early, will be a fun time for the two of you for years to come. You are the role model, so be encouraging, and they will develop your good habits.