Tooth decay in babies and toddlers, also known as baby bottle tooth decay, is the most common disease in children in the United States. An estimated 44 percent of 5-year-old children have experienced some amount of tooth decay, and it is most common in families of lower socioeconomic status. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to prevent baby bottle tooth decay. Here is what you should know.
What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is caused, in part, by bacterial colonies that attach to the teeth. In combination with carbohydrates such as sugar, which both feed the bacteria and help them attach more firmly, these bacteria can erode the tooth enamel. As it turns out, tooth decay is actually a transmissible disease. In infants and children, it can be transmitted from the mother to the baby via saliva on a pacifier or spoon.
Poor feeding habits are also implicated in baby bottle tooth decay. Putting the baby to bed with a bottle, or frequently exposing the child’s teeth to sugary sodas, fruit juice, milk, or formula, without proper oral hygiene, can lead to the disease.
Other contributing factors include inadequate amounts of fluoride, as well as another condition known as enamel hypoplasia, or breakdown of the tooth enamel. Baby bottle tooth decay can start as soon as the teeth emerge. It most often affects the upper front teeth, but can affect teeth throughout the mouth.
Why Do Baby Teeth Matter?
Many parents wonder why they need to protect their children’s baby teeth, since they will fall out anyway. However, the baby teeth are essential for many reasons. First, they maintain space in the jaw for the permanent teeth to properly emerge. They also allow children to speak and chew. Tooth decay can cause intense pain, and tooth decay in baby teeth can affect the permanent teeth as they wait to erupt.
How Can I Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
There are some simple steps you can take to vastly reduce your child’s chances of developing baby bottle tooth decay:
- Avoid swapping saliva with your baby through spoons or pacifiers
- Never let your baby fall asleep with a bottle that contains anything other than plain water
- Starting soon after birth, gently wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or soft washcloth
- As soon as the first tooth comes in, start brushing it with a child-size toothbrush and tiny dab of toothpaste. Talk to your dentist about whether to use fluoride toothpaste
- Encourage your child to switch from a bottle to a cup by her first birthday
- Teach your child to brush his own teeth with supervision by age three
- Nightly flossing of any teeth that touch
- Promote healthy eating and drinking by modeling excellent habits
- See the pediatrician for dental advice soon after the first tooth comes in. Schedule your child for an appointment with a pediatric or family dentist around her third birthday
Conveniently located in Woodbury, MN, Creekview Dental provides a progressive yet conservative approach to dental care. Our innovative, highly personalized procedures are focused on maintaining tooth structure and providing you with the healthy, beautiful smile you deserve. Call us today at 651-738-8204 to take the first steps on the road to better dental health.