You might think that just because your child’s baby teeth are temporary, they’re not important. Actually, baby teeth, like adult teeth, are needed for chewing, speaking, and smiling while being placeholders for adult teeth. They serve a major purpose in development and without proper maintenance, your child could develop baby bottle tooth decay.
What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay is tooth decay in young children. We forget that baby teeth are just as susceptible to cavities as adults. Children need their teeth to be strong and healthy so they can eat, speak, and smile. Plus, healthy baby teeth ensure adult teeth grow correctly.
What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
There are many causes of tooth decay in babies. One of the most common causes is the extended exposure to sugary beverages in bottles, like at bedtime or when they’re fussy. Saliva production slows at bedtime, making it easier for bacteria to flourish.
Caregivers can also pass their own cavity-causing bacteria to their babies through saliva. For instance, when a person puts the baby’s feeding spoon or pacifier in their mouth and then gives it back to the baby.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay in Your Baby
Fortunately, there are many ways you can prevent baby bottle tooth decay:
- After each feeding, wipe and massage your baby’s gums with a washcloth.
- Use only formula, breast milk, or milk in bottles. Avoid filling baby bottles with sugar water and juice.
- Babies should finish their bedtime and nap bottles before sleeping.
- Use clean pacifiers and don’t dip them in honey or sugar.
- Don’t share saliva with your baby through feeding spoons and pacifiers.
- When baby teeth come in, brush them gently with a small toothbrush and a dab of toothpaste. You can do this until they’re about 3.
- Start flossing when all your child’s teeth are in.
- Limit sugar.
- Schedule regular dental cleanings and exams.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Treatment
Child tooth decay treatment options depend on the problem’s severity. The first signs of baby tooth decay are usually white spots on the teeth. Your child’s dentist will most likely prescribe fluoride treatment and supplements. He or she will also insist that your child avoids acidic foods and sugary drinks. Luckily at this early stage, baby bottle tooth decay is reversible with fluoride treatment.
If tooth decay is found later, fluoride won’t help. Look out for the symptoms of severe decay like bleeding or swollen gums, dark spots on teeth, fever, and bad breath. These could also point to an infection. If your child’s baby bottle tooth decay has gotten this far, treatment might involve stainless steel crowns, extensive restoration work, or tooth extraction.
If your child’s baby bottle tooth decay goes too far, they could develop poor eating habits, speech issues, or crooked and damaged teeth. Start by teaching good dental hygiene to kids so they can keep their pearly whites healthy and strong for life. The best baby bottle tooth decay prevention is to never let it happen to begin with!
Ready to help your child establish great dental hygiene? Contact us today and make an appointment with our pediatric dentist!