What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay is the common term for tooth decay in young children or early childhood caries. While it usually shows up in the upper or lower front teeth, it can affect any tooth.
According to WebMD, It can be caused by a variety of factors, the most common of which is prolonged exposure to sugar. All kinds of milk have sugar in them, and so do drinks like soda and fruit juices. So, if you don’t frequently clean your baby’s bottle or pacifier, or frequently feed them sweet foods, then they’re at serious risk of baby bottle tooth decay.
The disease can also be caused by the passing of bacteria from the parent to the baby through saliva. This can happen when parents and babies share feeding utensils and pacifiers.
Lastly, baby bottle tooth decay is also caused by poor dental hygiene. Like adult teeth, baby teeth need to be brushed frequently to wash off any bacteria and clear out food debris around and between teeth.
Why is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Important?
Now, you may be wondering—why is caring for baby teeth important? It’s not like they’re permanent anyway, they’re going to fall off eventually.
But, caring for your child’s baby teeth is super important for their health and development. Not only do they help your little ones eat, speak, and smile, but they also help their permanent teeth grow properly. If a baby loses their tooth due to tooth decay rather than naturally falling off, a permanent tooth can drift to that space instead of its proper place. This eventually leaves your baby’s teeth crooked or crowded, and it will take years to fix with expensive braces and retainers.
So, nip tooth decay in the bud and practice proper dental hygiene as early as infancy.
How Do I Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
- Refrain from sharing saliva with your baby. This is pretty common with parents with habits like sharing feeding spoons, licking pacifiers, or using saliva to clean the baby’s face.
- After feeding your little one, wipe their gums with a clean, damp washcloth to get rid of remaining food debris.
- Place only breast milk, cow’s milk, and formula in your baby’s bottle. Avoid filling the bottle with tap water, sugar water, carbonated drinks, or juices.
- Use clean pacifiers. Don’t add sugar or honey, and make sure to sterilize it regularly.
- Ensure your infants finish their bottles before naptime or bedtime. When babies fall asleep with a bottle still in their mouths, you not only risk tooth decay but also choking.
- As much as possible, wean your little ones off their bottles by their first birthday. If not, then at least encourage them to start drinking from a cup.
- Feed your babies healthy food. Avoid too much sugar.
- When your infant’s teeth start erupting, brush them with a soft-bristled child’s toothbrush. Use a touch of fluoride toothpaste roughly the size of a grain of rice.
- Make regular visits to your dentist once the baby’s teeth start showing up. They can give you advice on how to properly care for your baby’s teeth and identify any issues your baby might have.
- From ages 3 to 6, start using a pea-sized dollop of fluoride toothpaste.
- Supervise your child’s brushing session until they’re seven years old. Before this age, children can’t be counted on to not swallow toothpaste.
Always remember that proper dental hygiene doesn’t start when you get your permanent teeth. Caring for baby teeth and gums starts as early as possible. Ensure your child gets clean bottles, pacifiers, and toothbrushes, and make sure they’re eating healthy, too.
A child’s smile can light up the world—don’t let it go!