Want to Avoid the Problems of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Follow These Steps to Keep Your Baby’s Mouth Healthy!

Laura explained to me that her two year old son Sam had recently developed some small stained pits and holes in his front teeth. Laura couldn’t understand how Sam’s primary teeth had developed cavities, and she wanted to stop the decay before it caused pain or discomfort for Sam. I asked Laura some questions about when and how she was feeding Sam and quickly realized that we were dealing with a case of baby bottle tooth decay.

What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when a young child, usually between one year and three years of age develops multiple cavities in their primary teeth. These cavities are generally found in the top front teeth, but it’s possible for children to develop cavities in any primary teeth.

When decay goes untreated it can become severe and painful. Sometimes, in particularly serious cases, baby bottle tooth decay can necessitate dental extractions or restorations. Laura was shocked to realize that Sam’s cavities could potentially become a serious problem. She needed to know how baby bottle tooth decay progresses and how it can be prevented.

What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay results when the teeth are exposed to sugary drinks for long periods of time, resulting in cavities. As I explained to Laura, baby bottle tooth decay is often caused by the common but potentially harmful practice of allowing a baby to fall asleep with a bottle. Decay can also result from feeding your child too many sugary sweet drinks and by failing to properly clean the child’s teeth and gums.

How Can I Prevent Decay?
As I told Laura, there are many steps you can take to prevent baby bottle tooth decay and keep your baby‘s mouth as healthy as possible.

Clean Your Baby’s Teeth and Mouth

  • Before your child is 1 year old, gently clean your child’s teeth and gums with wet gauze or a washcloth.
  • Between the ages of 12 and 18 months you can use a soft baby toothbrush with a small dab of fluoride-free toothpaste to clean your child’s teeth and gums.
  • Once your child turns 2, use a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste to clean your child’s teeth. Make sure your child doesn’t ingest the fluoride toothpaste.
  • Once all of your child’s teeth have erupted, begin flossing.

Don’t Put Your Child to Sleep With A Bottle
Although giving your child a bottle as you put them to sleep may comfort your baby, it exposes your baby’s teeth to sugary milk or formula for hours at a time, increasing the likelihood that your child will develop cavities.

It’s also a good idea to establish specific feeding times during the day, so that your child is not constantly sucking on a bottle throughout the day. It is also recommended that your child use a sippy cup rather than a bottle by the age of one year old.

Keep Pacifiers Clean
Many young children who are not comforted or put to bed with a bottle use a pacifier to fall asleep instead. Pacifiers can also contribute to baby bottle tooth decay, so it’s important to follow these simple instructions when giving your child a pacifier.

  • Use a pacifier recommended by your dentist
  • Give your child a freshly cleaned and sanitized pacifier before bed
  • Do not dip pacifiers in sweet substances like fruit juice or Kool-Aid

Schedule a Dental Appointment
Like Laura, you can learn a lot about how to care for your child’s teeth just by scheduling an appointment with your dentist! Your child’s first dentist visit should be within six months of their first tooth erupting, and should be before your child turns one year old. Your dentist can assess your child’s specific needs and help you keep your child’s smile healthy.

If you’d like to learn more about baby bottle tooth decay or you’re interested in scheduling a dental appointment for your child, just click here to schedule a free consultation.
Look for next week’s newsletter when we’ll be talking about how thumb sucking and pacifiers can affect your child’s teeth.

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