Baby Bottle Decay
Many people are unaware of this very serious rampant form of caries which occurs in the baby teeth of very young children - as young as 1 year old. This decay happens when liquids with natural sugars like milk, formula, or fruit juice stay on an infant's teeth for a long time. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth and cause serious decay.
Parents are often unaware that giving a baby a bottle during naptime or at night is particularly harmful because the flow of saliva decreases during sleep. The stagnant milk bathing the teeth the entire night causes a lot of damage. Breastfeeding and breast milk pooling on the teeth of a sleeping infant can also cause this problem.
Baby bottle tooth decay typically affects the upper front teeth causing the enamel to break down. Even the decay may cause pain and infection and the teeth may need to be removed prematurely. This affects a child's speech and causes difficulty eating food properly. It also causes malalignment of the permanent teeth.
So what is a parent to do? The good news is that a few simple steps can help stave off baby bottle tooth decay. They include implementing good oral hygiene at an early age. Here's how:
1. Wipe the baby's gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
2. Begin brushing your child's teeth, without toothpaste when his or her first tooth comes in. If toothpaste is used, choose a fluoride-free one.
3. Clean and massage the gums in areas without teeth.
4. Floss once all the baby teeth have come in.
5. Make sure your child is getting enough fluoride, which helps lessen cavities. Use tap water to mix formula since it is fluoridated.
6. Schedule regular dental visits by your child's first birthday so that a child can be screened early for potentially developing caries.
7. Begin weaning the baby off the bottle by one year and do not allow a child to wander around with a bottle of milk or juice or formula in his mouth as a soothing mechanism for boredom or hunger.