Did you know that “baby bottle tooth decay” is one of the most prevalent and preventable childhood diseases?
Known to dental professionals as ECC (Early Childhood Caries), baby bottle tooth decay is a condition that causes severe cavities in baby teeth, especially the front ones. Although it’s easily preventable, it’s a serious condition and requires immediate care. When left untreated, it can cause significant dental and developmental problems later on in life.
What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
A specific type of sugar-eating bacteria lives on teeth. These bacteria produce an acidic waste product that causes erosion and eventual holes in the teeth (cavities).
A healthy diet that’s low in sugar and good oral hygiene habits is enough to keep cavities to a minimum. For a few reasons, small children are more at risk than adults:
● They are unable to properly brush their teeth without assistance.
● They enjoy frequent sipping on drinks such as juice and milk, often falling asleep with a sippy cup or bottle still in their mouth.
● Frequent liquid exposure to their teeth as they suck, without brushing afterward.
If parents are not vigilant about their child’s oral hygiene and feeding cycle, baby bottle tooth decay can be a serious problem.
Consequences of Bottle Decay for Toddlers
Tooth decay can lead to painful abscesses in the baby teeth, affecting adult teeth later in life. Life-threatening infections can result from abscesses. Children with cavities can also have trouble eating healthy foods and learning proper speech. Sometimes, hospitalization is necessary.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Cavities don’t just happen! Fortunately, baby bottle tooth decay can be prevented. You can take several positive steps to help reduce your child’s chance of developing tooth decay or problems later in life.
Be aware of your child’s feeding schedule and sugar intake
Although sugar doesn’t cause cavities, it can fuel the bacteria that cause decay. Sugary drinks like juices and those with processed carbohydrates can cause acid to build up in children’s mouths, which can lead to tooth decay. Replacing sugary foods with healthier alternatives like water between meals can help prevent decay.
Eliminate bottles at bedtime
ECC was named “baby bottle teeth decay” for this very reason. Children who regularly fall asleep while drinking milk or juice are most at risk. If your child still prefers a bottle at bedtime, only plain water should be given. Going to sleep with anything other than water is an instant risk to your child’s dental health.
Use fluoride toothpaste twice daily to brush your child’s teeth
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens tooth enamel against cavities. When used in small amounts, it’s an excellent choice to benefit your child’s teeth. To reduce the number of sugars and bacteria that cause cavities, brush your children’s teeth twice daily with a rice grain-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Schedule regular dental checkups
As soon as your child gets their first set of baby teeth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Susan Francis. Bellmead Kid's Dentistry at Waco will track the development of your child’s smile and alert you to possible problems to watch out for. For more advice on preventing pediatric tooth decay, call our office today!