Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (or “Early Childhood Caries”) is caused by precisely the same things as any other tooth decay: acidity produced by bacterial action in the mouth. The problem usually first appears on the outer sides of front teeth, upper and lower, and is not hard to spot. To prevent early childhood caries, the basic rules of good dental hygiene apply.
However, in the case of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, the conditions causing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay are slightly different, in that the source of acidity is pronounced when a child is put to sleep with a bottle with a sugared drink, such as juice (and even milk has sugars), or is settled by using a bottle as a pacifier. In these cases, the teeth are exposed for a prolonged period to sugars that are food for bacteria.
In addition, some babies will be exposed to bacteria from a caregiver when that adult puts a baby’s feeding spoon in to their own mouth, or cleans a pacifier or feeding bottle with their own mouth. Saliva carrying bacteria can be transferred to the child’s mouth in this way.
Finally, a child is unlikely to be proactive in maintaining their own dental hygiene, and so the causes of tooth decay generally are enhanced in children.
Does this matter?
So you might ask: really, what does it matter if baby teeth (“primary teeth”) experience decay? They’re just going to be replaced in a few years anyway, with the teeth that really matter, right?
Actually, the fact that primary teeth will be replaced does not diminish their importance to overall dental health. While they are in a child’s teeth, they serve the fundamental purpose of chewing food. They are also important for learning to speak, and the importance of a good smile should not be ignored.
In addition, primary teeth are important placeholders in the jaw, ensuring that the teeth that follow them are properly positioned. So the stakes remain high: it’s important to protect primary teeth.
Avoiding Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Avoid or eliminate sources of sugar: various kinds of formula or milk (check labels), snacks that are sweetened with sugar, or sweetened liquids such as juices.
- Do not let your child carry a bottle about with them, as that leads to teeth being perpetually coated in sugar or sugar-producing substances.
- Never leave a baby with a bottle to go to sleep, unless the bottle has only water. Virtually all other liquids are either loaded with sugar, or will form sugars while the baby sleeps.
- Put your child to bed with freshly cleaned teeth.
- Do not share spoons, pacifiers, or bottles with your baby.
- Avoid transferring saliva to your child’s mouth (as perhaps when cleaning in the area of the mouth). Schedule dental visits as appropriate.
- For very young children, wipe their gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth after feeding.
- Brush the teeth of children up to the age of three gently with a child-sized toothbrush and a tiny amount of toothpaste.
- From the ages of three to six, supervise brushing with a small amount of toothpaste, seeing that your child brushes, spits, and rinses properly.
- If your child is using a pacifier, do not dip it in sugar or honey.
Many of these tips amount to developing good habits of dental hygiene early, and maintaining them consistently. Children who rebel at tooth cleaning usually have not started regular dental hygiene early enough to have assimilated it into their habits.
For advice on avoiding Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, managing childhood fluoride exposure, and dealing with the effects of childhood caries, contact the Sherway Gardens Dental Centre.Visit our office for a consultation