What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

The term “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay” is used to refer to tooth decay in very young children that is often caused by your baby indulging in late-night feedings from a bottle containing too much sugar. Cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth that feed on sugar and convert it into acid. 

This acid causes enamel erosion and can lead to holes or cavities in the teeth. How does this relate to a baby bottle? Babies whose teeth are too frequently exposed to sugar in the form of breast milk, sugar water, juice, or other sugars through a bottle experience what we call “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.” 

Causes of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Using a bottle as a pacifier or to soothe a baby at night to put them to bed can become a bad habit and put them at an increased risk of tooth decay. Another cause of bacteria is passing your saliva onto your child by sharing liquids or licking their pacifier or bottle clean. 

You should not share anything that comes into contact with the mouth, as this also leads to bacteria formation and tooth decay. Adequate levels of saliva are also important to protect your baby from tooth decay. 

However, saliva production slows down during sleep. This is why nighttime use of baby bottles can be particularly harmful, as there is less saliva to wash away sugar and this puts your child’s teeth at an increased risk of acid attacks.

Complications of Tooth Decay in Babies

Even though your child will lose their baby teeth, maintaining their health is extremely important for many reasons. For one, your child is not supposed to lose their first baby tooth to make room for permanent teeth until they are about 6 years old.

Failure to maintain proper oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay and in severe cases, premature loss of a tooth. While this may seem harmless because they were going to lose the tooth anyway, this can cause the surrounding teeth in the mouth to shift and crowd into that space. 

This can lead to crooked teeth and prevent the permanent tooth from having a space to grow into. When a child prematurely loses a tooth, they may need to get a space maintainer to hold space for their permanent tooth to grow into. 

Other reasons it’s vital to ensure your child has healthy teeth include:

  • To assist with chewing and speaking
  • To maintain the integrity of their facial structure
  • Avoid pain and infection associated with tooth decay
  • Reduce the risk of gum disease
  • Reduce the amount of school they will need to miss if they have poor oral health
  • Prevent the need for more extensive and costly dental work later on

How to Prevent Tooth Decay

To reduce your child’s risk of developing baby bottle tooth decay, you should reduce using the baby bottle as a pacifier to soothe your child. It is also crucial that you avoid filling the baby bottle with sugary liquids such as juice, sugar water, or soft drinks which increase the risk of cavities.

Do not share saliva with your child by placing your mouth on bottles or spoons that they use. To clean a pacifier or a bottle, do not lick it. Clean it with soap and water before handing it back to the child.

For proper bottle use, only fill baby bottles with milk or formula and avoid giving it to them right before they go to bed. Do not dip pacifiers in sugary liquids or honey. It is best to encourage your child to drink from a cup by the time they turn one year old. 

It is also around one-year old that they should begin attending regular dental visits. If they receive their first tooth before this time, then you should take them to the dentist upon receiving their first tooth.

Stress the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene at an early age. When your child’s first tooth comes in, you can clean it with a very small soft-bristled toothbrush and a touch of fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice until they are 3 years old. 

Between the ages of 3-6, the amount of fluoridated toothpaste can be increased to a pea-sized amount. When your child can brush their teeth on their own, you should still supervise them to make sure they are doing so properly and to make sure they don’t swallow the toothpaste, though this habit usually is not broken until around 6-7 years old.

Take Your Child to Their First Pediatric Dental Appointment in Cypress, TX

Is your child turning one or have they received their very first tooth? This is a truly exciting time but along with excitement should come precaution. Now is the time to exercise vigilance in maintaining your child’s oral health. 

By taking your child to dental cleanings and checkups every 6 months starting at one year old or when they receive their first tooth, you will reduce their risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Contact us at Cavity Patrol Pediatric Dentistry today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Julia or Dr. Chun in Cypress.

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