Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

It is crucial to maintain the health of baby teeth, even though they will eventually be replaced. Baby teeth serve several important functions during their time in the mouth.

These teeth contribute to clear speech and proper enunciation, aid in chewing food correctly, preserve space for adult teeth, and prevent the tongue from positioning improperly in the mouth. Premature loss of baby teeth can lead to adjacent teeth shifting, resulting in impacted adult teeth and the potential need for orthodontic treatment. This can cause long-term complications, extensive orthodontic treatment, and an unsatisfactory aesthetic outcome.

Tooth decay can affect babies as soon as their first primary tooth emerges, usually around six months of age. To address this risk, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends a "well-baby checkup" with a pediatric dentist around twelve months of age. This early dental visit is essential for monitoring oral health and establishing preventive measures.

What is baby bottle tooth decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay refers to cavities that occur in infants and toddlers. It commonly affects the front teeth in the upper jaw. If it becomes severe, the pediatric dentist may need to remove the damaged tooth and use a space maintainer to prevent misalignment of the other teeth. Regular checkups with a pediatric dentist and good homecare can prevent baby bottle tooth decay.

How does baby bottle tooth decay start?

Tooth decay in babies is caused by acid-producing bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria can be passed from parents to their baby through saliva, such as when sharing spoons or cleaning pacifiers with their mouths.

The main cause of baby bottle tooth decay is frequent exposure to sugary liquids like breast milk, formula, juice, or sweetened water, which are often given in baby bottles. When these liquids are consumed, especially during naps or bedtime, they stay in the mouth for a long time. This allows bacteria to feed on the sugar, producing harmful acids that attack the tooth enamel and cause cavities.

Babies who don't get enough fluoride are at a higher risk of tooth decay. Fluoride helps protect the teeth by reducing mineral loss and promoting mineral reuptake. Pediatric dentists can assess an infant's fluoride needs and determine if they are at high risk for baby bottle tooth decay through questionnaires and examinations.

What can I do at home to prevent baby bottle tooth decay?

Parents play a crucial role in preventing baby bottle tooth decay. By following these guidelines and scheduling regular dental appointments, you can keep your child's smile healthy and cavity-free:

  1. Avoid exchanging saliva to prevent bacteria transmission. Rinse pacifiers and toys with clean water and use separate spoons for each person.
  2. Clean your baby's gums after each feeding with a soft washcloth.
  3. Use an appropriate toothbrush and ADA-approved toothpaste as soon as teeth appear. For children under two, use fluoride-free toothpaste.
  4. Once your child can spit out excess toothpaste, use a pea-sized amount of ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste. Be cautious not to use too much fluoride.
  5. Don't put sugary drinks in baby bottles or sippy cups. Use water, breast milk, or formula instead. Encourage a regular cup after the age of twelve months.
  6. Avoid dipping pacifiers in sweet liquids like honey.
  7. Promote a healthy diet by reducing sugary snacks.
  8. Discourage taking a bottle filled with sugary liquids to bed. If needed, provide water instead.
  9. Help your child brush their teeth until around the age of seven.
  10. Consult with the pediatric dentist about your child's fluoride needs.

If you have questions or concerns about baby bottle tooth decay, please contact our office.

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