Tips on preventing baby bottle tooth decay

November 12, 2014

Too much sugar can destroy your baby’s first teeth, hampering their ability to talk, chew and smile. That's why it's best to establish good oral hygiene right away.
As a baby, if you hit the bottle too often you’re going to have trouble.

What is known as “baby bottle tooth decay” can be caused by sweetened liquids or those with natural sugars (such as milk, formula and fruit juice) clinging to an infant's teeth for a prolonged period. Bacteria in the mouth thrives on this sugar and can produce acids that attack the teeth.

While it is usually the front upper teeth that are affected, others can fall prey to decay, too.
Sugar and saliva aren't a good combo
Sugary drinks at nap time, when saliva production is slow, can be particularly harmful to teeth. As are pacifiers dipped in sugar, syrup or mother’s own saliva. Similarly, a parent using their own utensils to feed a child could pass on bacteria that eventually harm the child’s teeth.
Temporary but still important
Baby teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent ones. Even so, they need to be kept healthy. Baby requires them to talk, chew and smile. They also serve as placeholders for adult teeth.

If teeth are infected or lost too early, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth and damaged adult teeth.
Signs of early childhood tooth decay
It can be difficult to spot early childhood tooth decay. Often it is overlooked until the child is 20 months of age and may at this point require significant dental work to repair.

Depending on how advanced the condition is, signs of baby bottle tooth decay include:

  • A dull white band on the tooth surface closest to the gum line — this is the first sign and often missed by parents
  • A yellow, brown or black band on the tooth surface closest to the gum line indicates more advanced tooth decay
  • Teeth that look like brownish-black stumps mean that the child has a serious problem

Good oral care
Better than repairing the effects of baby bottle tooth decay is preventing them with good oral hygiene. Steps can include:

  • Wiping the baby’s gums after each feeding
  • Regular brushing and flossing starting as the first teeth come in
  • Ensuring your child is getting enough fluoride
  • Scheduling regular dental visits

Make life less sweet but better
And yes, watch how much sugar you give your infant.

  • Reduce sugar overall in your infant’s diet, especially between meals
  • Don’t fill bottles with sugar water and soft drinks. Stick to water, milk and formula
  • If you serve juice, put it in a sippy cup, diluted with water
  • Your baby should never fall asleep with a bottle of anything except water
  • Don’t give baby a pacifier dipped in anything, including sugar, syrup or spit

Remember that good oral hygiene habits started early can lead to a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Tips on preventing baby bottle tooth decay
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