Baby bottle tooth decay is a condition that can destroy the primary teeth of infants or young children. It occurs when the teeth are frequently exposed to sugary liquids. Some examples of these liquids include milk, breast milk, baby formula, fruit juice, etc. This condition most frequently occurs in children up to the age of 3. Although, after a long day, lying your baby down for a nap or for bedtime with a bottle of milk or juice can seem like the best idea, it is actually one of the worst. When children’s teeth are exposed to sugar frequently or even for long periods of time, a thin, sticky, colorless film of bacteria called plaque forms. These bacteria produce acid that attacks the teeth’s enamel. When a child has sugary foods or liquids left in their mouths, the bacteria has more time to produce the decay-causing acid. The front upper teeth are affected the most. These are usually the teeth that have extensive decay. The bottom front teeth are usually the least likely to be affected because the tongue usually protects the area.
“They are just baby teeth!” is something we find most parents saying when they are recommended to bring their child in for a professional cleaning, or even when they are told to take care of the already decayed teeth. Baby teeth deserve just as good care as the permanent teeth. The primary teeth or “baby teeth” need to be given the best of care because they are needed for many reasons:
- Helping the child chew—which is essential for a healthy, balanced diet.
- To help in facial development and expression.
- To preserve the space for incoming permanent “adult” teeth. When a baby tooth is lost too early, the neighboring teeth drift into the space and may cause irregularity of the permanent ones. They are, in essence, “holding” space in the child’s jaw.
- For the child’s speech—help the child learn to pronounce words correctly.
By the age of three, most children have a set of 20 primary teeth. Decay in these teeth can cause pain and discomfort and harm the erupting permanent teeth that are already growing inside of the gums. The permanent teeth begin to develop as early as four months after birth, although they are not visible until the child is about six years old. Decay can cause the disease to spread to those hidden permanent teeth and, even worse, the decay can be associated with health problems in some children.
What Can I do to Keep My Child’s Teeth Healthy?
Babies and children rely solely on their parents or their caregivers for good health. If you are a working parent, like most parents are, make sure to share information about preventing baby bottle tooth decay with the other adult(s) who care for your child. Here are the top tips for keeping your child’s teeth healthy:
- NEVER allow a baby or toddler to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, juice, other sweetened liquids or diluted sweet drinks or a pacifier dipped in sugar.
- Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after each feeding. As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, start brushing it with water.
- By your child’s first birthday, he/she should drink from a cup, this reduces the chance of tooth decay.
- Schedule a “healthy baby checkup.” It’s beneficial for the first visit to occur within six months of the eruption of the first tooth and no later than the first birthday.
- During the first visit, Dr. Doris Giraldo can show you how to properly clean your child’s teeth.
Dental care should be started before the child reaches school age. It has been found that good habits established early are likely to continue throughout life. If a child is brought to the dentist at an early age (before school age), they will become more comfortable with the dentist and each visit would become easier for them. We know how difficult it may be for a young child to see any doctor, which is why we go above and beyond to gain you and your child’s trust. When children are brought into the treatment room, we immediately ask them what their favorite cartoon, movie, or television show is and play it on Netflix for them. Most of our younger patients enjoy watching Diego or SpongeBob SquarePants while getting their teeth cleaned. Dr. Giraldo and the rest of the New Dimension Dentistry staff are extremely friendly and gentle with all of our patients, especially with the younger ones. Contact us to schedule an appointment for yourself and your child today!