Also known as early childhood caries, baby bottle tooth decay refers to tooth decay in infants and toddlers. Your child needs strong, healthy baby 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 child 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.
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, try to fill it with water only.
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 and allows for the acids produced by the bacteria to attack the tooth surface. Continual exposure leads to cavities as the tooth continues to break down more and more over time.
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 and more frequently the teeth are exposed to sugar, the more devastating the effect. Snacks that stick to the teeth, like goldfish, 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! We follow the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry:
- Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- Begin brushing your infant’s teeth when the first tooth comes in.
- Use a tiny smear or rice-sized amount of toothpaste twice daily as soon as teeth erupt with a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush until about age 3.
- Children aged 3-6 years old should utilize a pea-size amount of toothpaste while brushing twice daily.
- Children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. Assist your child after they brush to ensure all areas are cleaned appropriately.
- 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 child 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!