Children are susceptible to tooth decay as soon as their first teeth begin to erupt. Tooth decay in early childhood occurs most often in the upper and lower front teeth (incisors) and can be a serious problem. One of the most prevalent dental issues in young children today is a condition known as baby bottle tooth decay. Baby bottle tooth decay is easily preventable when certain precautions are taken in a timely matter.
What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay, also known as early childhood carries, is the deterioration of the tooth enamel caused by milk or sweetened liquids such as fruit juice, juice flavored beverages, and sodas. This is especially pronounced when the child is allowed to drink milk or sweetened liquids during sleep, nighttime or daytime napping. In severe Early Childhood Caries (ECC), milk is the main cause in children under 3 years of age. The sugar found in these beverages provides a feeding frenzy for the bacteria found in the mouth. These bacteria then produce acids, which begin to break down the enamel found on the surface of the teeth. The damage to the teeth is irreversible, however, with good parenting techniques and proper dental hygiene, baby bottle tooth decay is preventable.
How to prevent baby bottle tooth decay
- Reduce your child’s intake of sugar-laden beverages.
- Under no circumstances should soda ever be placed into your child’s bottle or spill proof cup! Soda not only contains large amounts of sugars but they also contain additional acids that break down the surface of the teeth. Even sugar-free and diet sodas contain harmful acids.
- Dilute your child’s juice with water to reduce the sugar content.
- Serve no more than 6 ounces of juice per day during meals
- Replace their usual beverage with water when laying your child down to sleep.
- Children ages 6-12 months should only have breast milk or formula in their bottles.
- Do not use a bottle of juice or milk as a pacifier.
- Never dip pacifiers into sugar or honey.
- At the age of 6 months start to teach your child how to use a cup.
- Stop the use of bottles by 12-14 months of age.
- Wipe your child’s gums with gauze or a damp washcloth after each feeding, to greatly reduce the numbers of plaque bacteria in their mouth.
- Once their teeth have started to erupt, brush their teeth with a soft washcloth and a non-fluoridated toothpaste.
- Switch to fluoridated toothpaste when your child is able to completely spit out the remaining toothpaste after brushing.
- Once all primary (baby) teeth have erupted, start flossing your child’s teeth and bring them to the dentist for their first visit (usually between the ages of 2-3)