How Can You Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

How Can You Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

​The alternative name for baby bottle tooth decay is “early childhood caries,” which means cavities that form on baby teeth at a young age.

We know that healthy baby teeth lead to healthy adult teeth. They are space holders for the adult teeth and provide a healthy environment for the future adult teeth. Tooth decay in baby teeth can lead to pain, infections, missing teeth, difficulty chewing and speech and unnecessary stress.

What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay? 

This condition occurs when your child’s baby teeth are exposed to sugars, usually in the form of milk from a bottle or sweet drinks, and start to decay. The decay will typically present on the upper front teeth but can extend to any tooth in the mouth. This condition is most common when a bottle is used as a pacifier or when a baby is left with a bottle of milk overnight.

This is because their teeth will be bathed in sugary liquid for an extended time, increasing the risk for decay. Pediatricians recommend that the only liquid given at night in a bottle is water. Inadequate intake of fluoride can also lead to baby bottle tooth decay. Fluoride helps protect the baby teeth from decay and should be ingested by drinking tap water and using a small amount of toothpaste containing fluoride by the age of 3.

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria and, therefore, can also be passed from mother/father to baby by passing bacteria contacting saliva. This means that sharing a spoon or utensil should be avoided.

Signs & Symptoms of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay 

Tooth decay may occur in its early stages without presenting any signs or symptoms. Small cavities between teeth may not show at all. They may show minor white or brown-stained patches between teeth as they progress and get larger. More advanced decay will look like chips or fractures between teeth and may be yellow, brown or black.

Your baby may also be experiencing pain or discomfort due to the decay. They may show this by being fussy, crying, or presenting with swelling and a fever. Taking your toddler to the dentist at an early age is vital at the onset of the first teeth. Your dentist can check areas of your toddlers’ teeth that you can’t access. If baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, it can lead to pain, infection, loss of teeth, problems with the adult teeth and very costly dental treatment.

Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay 

Reducing the amount of sugar your baby consumes plays a vital role in reducing their risk. Try not to give your baby anything else to drink but water or milk. Make sure you do not leave them to sleep at night with a milk bottle, and do not use a bottle of milk as a pacifier.

Be sure to avoid sharing your own saliva with your baby. After feeding, clean your baby’s teeth and gums with a gauze and a small toothbrush. When your baby sleeps, their mouth must be clear from any sugars. Also, be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of baby bottle tooth decay.

Treatment of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay 

If the decay is still tiny and in the early stages, your dentist can use fluoride treatment to remineralize the areas and prevent the decay from growing. Stronger fluoride such as silver diamine fluoride may be applied to areas of decay. Filling and dental crowns are possible solutions if the decay is more extensive and cannot be treated with fluoride. The decay will be removed and filled, and a crown will protect the tooth until it is ready to fall out.

The last resort is to have a severely decayed tooth extracted when there is no other option. In this case, a space maintainer may be used to hold the proper space for the future adult tooth. Treatment of decay on baby teeth, as mentioned earlier, is vital to the health of the future adult teeth and your child’s overall wellbeing.

Please contact us if you have any questions about baby bottle tooth decay. 

Learn How To Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Learn How To Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

What is bottle decay?

Cavities found on the upper, front teeth in small children are commonly known as bottle decay, nursing caries, early childhood caries or baby bottle mouth. The cavities are localized to the upper front teeth because when a baby drinks from a bottle or nipple, their tongue covers the lower teeth, protecting them. These cavities often develop before the molars erupt.

How do babies get cavities?

Like adult cavities, bottle decay is caused by a combination of bacteria + carbohydrates + susceptible tooth surfaces. When we ingest carbohydrates, such as the natural sugars found in milk, they can be used by cavity-causing bacteria to grow. This bacteria then creates plaque, which is acidic. When this acid is allowed to sit on the teeth undisturbed, it starts to break down the protective enamel layer. When this reaction often happens, such as with a nightly bottle before sleep, the enamel decays and a cavity develops. Our mouths do have some self-cleaning tricks, such as producing watery saliva, however, when we fall asleep, this saliva production slows down and if proper brushing is not done, the acidic plaque is allowed to sit on the teeth for a long period.

baby bottle tooth decay

How can I prevent decay in my children’s teeth?

Children should always go to bed with a clean mouth. This starts with wiping the teeth and gums with a wet cloth after nursing or bottles. Once the molars erupt, a soft toothbrush should be used at least twice a day to remove plaque.

The current guidelines from The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry note that fluoride toothpaste can start being used as soon as teeth erupt. For children under the age of 3, it is recommended to use a small “smear” amount of toothpaste, with adult assistance. Fluoride is the only substance that can help “heal” acid damage, otherwise called “demineralization.”

When parents are brushing children’s teeth they should lift the upper lip to ensure the toothbrush is removing all of the plaque, especially along the gum line where it tends to collect.

Children should only have water in bed with them as it does not contain carbohydrates. Night nursing, especially on-demand nursing should be reduced as early as possible to minimize cavity risk. Breast milk on its own has not been proven to cause cavities. However, if there is plaque is present on the teeth, and then breast milk is allowed to sit on the tooth surface as well, this can cause cavities over time. Increased frequency of feedings also increases the risk of cavities.

Children can start to develop cavities as soon as their teeth erupt; this is why every child should be assessed by a dentist within six months of their first tooth erupting. Dental professionals may be able to diagnose early signs of cavities and provide solutions to reduce the risk or slow the progression. Contact us if you have any questions, or would like to schedule a consultation or dental visit.