Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Do you put your baby to bed with a bottle full of formula or breast milk? You may be doing your baby harm. The formula and breast milk that you use to comfort and nourish your baby can also cause severe tooth decay. What you are using to nourish your baby also nourishes the normal bacteria in your baby’s mouth. These bacteria turn the sugars found in formulas, milks, juices, sodas and other sweetened drinks into acids that strip away the enamel of the tooth if in prolonged contact resulting in tooth decay.
Every time a child consumes a sugary liquid, acid attacks the teeth and gums. After numerous attacks, tooth decay can begin. Enzymes in the saliva digest sugars cleaning the teeth, but the problem comes when a baby falls asleep. While a baby sleeps, saliva production and swallowing decreases, and any liquids still in the mouth will pool next to the teeth, slowly dissolving the enamel. Tooth decay can also occur if the child is allowed to walk around with a bottle for a long period of time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents only give bottles during feedings, and not allow their children to carry a bottle between meals. Teeth remain damaged until they are replaced by permanent teeth. If left untreated, pain and infection can result, and severely decayed teeth may need to be extracted. If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth and damaged permanent teeth. Healthy baby teeth usually result in healthy permanent teeth.
Tooth decay can be prevented. Reducing the prolong exposure to acids is the most important step, but helping to strengthen the enamel is also key. A series of small changes over a period of time can eventually lead to better oral health.
- Gradually dilute the bottle contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.
- Once that period is over, only fill the bottle with water or give the child a clean pacifier, recommended by a dentist. The only safe liquid to put in a bottle to prevent baby bottle tooth decay is water.
- Decrease consumption of sugar, especially between meals.
- Children should be weaned from the bottle as soon as they can drink from a cup, but the bottle should not be taken away too soon, since the sucking motion aids in the development of facial muscles, as well as the tongue.
- Change the baby’s feeding time so that your baby is awake for 15 minutes after finishing. For some babies, the act of feeding is the only way they become drowsy enough to sleep. If this is the case, it is extremely important to gently brush their teeth within 15 minutes of the baby feeding while they are asleep.
- The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends starting cleaning babies’ teeth at least once a day, as soon as their first tooth erupts. Gently cleaning your baby’s gums can help prevent gum disease later on as well as soothe your baby’s gums while teething. When brushing a child’s teeth, use a soft toothbrush and a pea-shaped amount of toothpaste. Before your child can spit, be sure to use non-fluoride toothpaste. Once a child is able to spit, use a fluoride toothpaste
- Parents should first bring their child to the dentist when the child is between 6 and 12 months old
Children with healthy teeth can chew food easily, learn to speak clearly and smile with confidence. Let’s all work together to instill good oral habits to children of all ages.