What is baby bottle tooth decay?
This is often referred to as Early Childhood Caries, but the name itself indicates the cause of tooth decay which is the baby bottle! It is not so much the bottle itself but the liquids we as parents put in it.
What beverages we give our baby matters and when we give it to them as well. Beverages containing sugars such as fruit juices and soft drinks can be harmful to their teeth.
What you need to know about the causes and why it happens.
Before we can answer the why, we need to know causes of baby tooth decay and some of them aren’t a direct result of the bottle. So, what are they?
- Baby bottle is given before naptime or bedtime resulting in the child sleeping with the bottle in the mouth.
- Baby bottle used as a pacifier.
- Pacifier dipped in honey or sweet beverages to shush a fussy baby.
- Baby’s diet.
- Exchange of saliva from the mother or caregiver – through sharing food.
All these are a cause of concern, but the first three points are what will focus on the most. Why?
- Bacteria found in the mouth feed off sugar.
- Prolonged sugars become a feeding supply to bacteria and as a result, produces more acid than usual, the acid that attacks the teeth.
- Giving beverages with sugar before bedtime is harmful because the saliva flow decreases when sleeping. When there’s a reduced flow of saliva, baby teeth and gum become vulnerable to the sugar and acid production.
Baby teeth are an essential stepping stone before their adult teeth. We need to ensure we’re providing good oral hygiene and habits to help protect their teeth. Baby teeth play a vital role in transitioning from liquid to solid foods (chewing) and speaking.
When we leave prolonged sugars in the mouth, it can lead to pain and infection which can lead to more severe problems such as bad eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth and damaged adult teeth.
Ways we can prevent baby bottle tooth decay in our baby.
- Don’t give a bottle before bedtime or naptime.
- Don’t allow baby to sleep with a bottle in the mouth unless the beverage is WATER.
- Don’t dip the pacifier in honey or sweeten beverages.
- Dilute beverages with sugar by adding water and slowly work towards just having the drink be water.
- Reduce sugar diet – no sugar in beverages or food, preferably.
- Brush baby teeth and clean gums.
- Floss baby teeth.
- Dental check-ups/visits after 1st birthday.
Maintaining our baby’s teeth is crucial to having healthy baby teeth and eventually healthy, permanent teeth. Teeth are pivotal to our overall health including our child’s. Ensuring we take measures to keep a healthy clean mouth and good oral hygiene is a way of protecting their smile.