Also known as early childhood caries, baby bottle tooth decay refers to tooth decay in infants and toddlers. Your child needs strong, healthy primary teeth to chew food properly and learn to speak, so preventing early childhood decay is very important.
The Causes of Tooth Decay in Infants and Toddlers
There are many risk factors when it comes to children’s tooth decay. A common cause is the frequent and prolonged exposure of your child’s teeth to sugary drinks, including milk and breast milk, formula, and fruit juice.
Giving your little one a sugary drink at nap or night-time, either in a bottle or sippy cup, can be especially harmful because the flow of saliva decreases during sleep. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar and produce acids that attack the teeth.
Tooth decay can also be caused by bacteria passed from you to your baby through saliva by sharing spoons, testing foods before feeding them to your baby, and cleaning off a pacifier in your mouth instead of with water. These germs can start the process that causes cavities even before your baby’s primary teeth emerge, so it’s vital to avoid sharing saliva with your baby from the start.
If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride internally through water, especially if he or she drinks bottled water, there can also be an increased risk for tooth decay. Dr. Verhagen may prescribe fluoride supplements to help prevent tooth decay.
Sippy cups should be used as a training tool from the bottle to a cup and should be discontinued by the second birthday. If your child uses a sippy cup throughout the day, fill it with water only (except at mealtime).
If you fill a sippy cup with liquids that contain sugar (including juice, milk, sports drinks, etc.) and allow a child to sip on it throughout the day, this bathes the teeth in cavity-causing bacteria.
The Causes of Tooth Decay in Children
As your son or daughter gets older, continue the habits of excluding sugary beverages in their diet. Milk at mealtime and plain water between meals are key to preventing tooth decay.
In addition, watch their snacking. The longer teeth are exposed to sugar, the more devastating the effect. Snacks that stick to the teeth, like gummy bears and fruit snacks, can be retained on teeth for hours as they slowly dissolve.
Tooth Decay Prevention
The good news about early childhood decay is that it’s preventable!
- Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- Begin brushing your infant’s teeth, without toothpaste, when the first tooth comes in.
- Clean and massage gums in areas without teeth.
- Place only formula, milk, or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling a bottle with liquids like sugar water, juice, or soft drinks.
- Never allow your youngster to fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup that contains anything but water.
- Never dip a pacifier in anything sweet, like sugar water or honey.
- Schedule an appointment with our office by your child’s first birthday or when the first teeth begin to emerge.
Remember, healthy little smiles grow up to be healthy big smiles!