Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a term used to describe the decay that develops when baby teeth have frequent and prolonged contact with too much sugar. It can occur when babies are put to bed with a bottle, when a bottle is used as a pacifier, or if a baby uses a bottle or sippy cup for extended periods of time. Bacteria already in the mouth feed on the sugar, multiply, and produce acid as a waste product. This acid attacks the teeth and tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.
Why should you be concerned with Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
They’re just baby teeth and they lose them anyway, right? True, babies do lose their baby teeth, but infant cavities can be a serious problem. Children need their teeth to chew, speak, and smile. Baby teeth hold the space for permanent teeth. If your child loses a baby tooth too early, the adjacent teeth are more likely to tilt or drift into the empty space and create limited space in the jaw for the permanent tooth to erupt. If left untreated, the permanent tooth can come in crowded or be blocked from erupting.
The first signs of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay are white spots on the smooth surfaces of the front teeth. If untreated, these white spots will quickly develop into tooth decay. Teeth that already have decay may appear brown or black. It most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.
What are some ways to prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Try not to share saliva with your baby by sharing feeding spoons or licking pacifiers.
- Place only formula, milk or breastmilk in bottles.
- Avoid filling bottles with sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean, don’t dip it in sugar or honey.
- Don’t put your child to sleep with a bottle of juice or milk. The sugar in the liquid will remain on your infant’s teeth for hours.
- Don’t let your child walk around with a bottle of juice or milk.
- Wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- Begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they grow in. Brush gently with a child-size toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste until the age of 3.
- Floss your child’s teeth after all of them have grown in.
- Limit the amount of juice you give your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 6 ounces per day for young children. Babies under 6 months should not drink juice at all.
- Encourage healthy eating habits, and limit sweets in general.
- Schedule regular dental visits by your child’s first birthday.
It’s never too late to break bad habits. If your child currently drinks sweetened liquids from the bottle or sleeps with a bottle, you can work to break the habit now. Begin by gradually diluting the bottle with water over 2 to 3 weeks until you give only water.
Proper dental hygiene and regular visits to your pediatric dentist for exams and cleanings are essential for a lifetime of good dental health.