What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay in infants is often referred to as baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD). BBTD occurs when liquids with natural sugars (like milk, formula, and fruit juice) cling to an infant's teeth for a long time. Oral Bacteria convert these sugars into acids that attack the teeth.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is Early Childhood Caries (ECC)
Early Childhood Caries (ECC), or, more popularly, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is dental caries in young children. The primary cause is prolonged exposure of the infant teeth to sweetened liquids. This sweetening can be sugar or honey added to a pacifier, or “natural”, found in milk, formula, and fruit juice. Even breast milk contains sugars. The naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth produce acid as a by-product of eating these sugars. The acid, in turn, attacks the teeth, and causes tooth disease. The condition is found more commonly in minority and rural populations, presumably due to poor parent education. While most commonly seen in the upper front teeth, it can spread to all teeth in the mouth.
Even though we might think of baby teeth as being temporary, they provide important functions in the developing child, helping with chewing and speaking, as well as laying the foundation for the adult teeth that follow them. As a result of tooth decay, the child may develop poor eating habits that may transmit to adult life with further speech problems and crooked teeth. Tooth decay in infants is often referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay happens when sweetened liquids or those with natural sugars (like milk, formula, and fruit juice) cling to an infant's teeth for a long time. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth.
The American Dental Association has shown that, not only are sweetened drinks the prime source of baby bottle tooth decay, but also the exposure time to these drinks contribute significantly. Thus, frequent sweet drinks are to be discouraged and the worst culprit, the sweetened juice bottle that the child might go to sleep with, should be immediately stopped.
Dentists recommend regular check-up visits from the time the first teeth erupt, usually at about 6 months and that children’s teeth should be gently brushed from the time they first appear. Before teeth come out, it is suggested that the gums be wiped down with a cloth.
Most municipal water supplies contain fluoride; an important element in promoting the development of strong teeth, so drinking plain drinking water is beneficial to dental health. Some bottled waters do not contain fluoride.
Bottles given to children should be limited to water. If a child is used to having a juice bottle at nap- or bedtime, a suggestion for weaning from this practice is to slowly increase the dilution of the juice with water over 2 to 3 weeks. The use of juice bottles at bedtime is made worse by the fact that the body produces less saliva at sleep. Saliva has the effect of neutralizing the acids produced by bacteria eating the sugars, as well as diluting their effect. There is no reason, ever, to give a young child carbonated, sweetened drinks.
Please contact Dr. Boling – Lonestar Smiles for Kids at 817-598-0835 if you have any questions or concerns about your babies teeth.