Baby Bottle Caries
Baby bottle tooth decay is alternately known as Early Childhood Tooth Decay. This disease is characterized by severe dental caries during childhood and this might have significant implications in the children’s health both short term and long term. The National Health and Nutrition Examination survey 1999-2004 carried out by NIDCR (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research) has arrived at the following findings.
1. 42% of children in the age group 2 to 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth.
2. 23% of children in the age group 2 to 11 have untreated dental caries.
3. Children in the age group 2 to 11 have an average of 1.6 decayed primary teeth and 3.6 decayed primary surfaces.
The above figures indicate that BBTD (acronym Baby bottle tooth decay) is a significant dental health problem in this age group. Hence it is necessary that people make themselves aware of the details of this problem and try and prevent its occurrence. This FAQ gives details of BBTD and how to prevent its occurrence.
What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Under normal circumstances a baby gets its first teeth when it is about 6 months old and these teeth are susceptible to decay. This condition is known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.
In order to chew their food, speak and have an attractive smile it is necessary for your baby to have strong and healthy teeth. Baby teeth are also useful for maintaining space in the jaw for adult teeth. Loss of teeth by the baby in the early part of its life will make the teeth adjacent to it to drift into the space that is empty and there is unlikely to be sufficient space when adult teeth start coming in. The adult teeth might become crooked or crowded because of this.
There are cases wherein the babies’ teeth decayed badly which have resulted in dental restorations or extractions. Fortunately it is possible to prevent this condition from happening. Normally upper front teeth are destroyed by this condition although other teeth also can be affected.
What are the reasons for the occurrence of Baby bottle tooth decay?
When the normal mouth bacteria and carbohydrates in the diet interact cavities occur. The bacteria ferment the sugars and convert them to acids. This acid etches the enamel of the teeth when there is a prolonged contact with the tooth. Under normal circumstances the saliva aids in preventing formation of cavities by digesting the sugars as well as by washing the teeth.
At the time of sleeping the production of saliva decreases at a faster rate. Your swallowing gets reduced. Hence the liquids in the mouth before you go to sleep rest in your mouth for longer periods.
Baby bottle tooth decay is the specific form of severe teeth decay found in the babies who fall asleep with a bottle of milk, juice, or any sweetened liquid in the mouth. It is the only severe dental disease common in children under three years of age.
The extent of tooth decay is dependent on the bottle content, frequency of feeding with bottle and also the duration of feeding at each time. Frequent bottle feeding with sweetened liquid is not good for the child’s teeth. You will harm the child’s teeth by allowing the child to have the bottle all the time.
In adults the Caries/ Cavities are mostly invisible whereas in babies the baby bottle tooth decay causes cavities on the top four central teeth that are visible. Their counterparts in the lower gum are not affected because they are protected by the tongue while sucking and also washed by saliva.
How do you prevent Baby bottle tooth decay?
Many parents are unaware that decay of baby teeth can occur immediately after its appearance in the mouth. They find that the damage is done before they come to know about it.
You can prevent such a happening by taking the following precautions.
• Make sure that your child does not sleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquid.
• Avoid giving bottle feed to the baby during non-meal times.
• Do not use the bottle for pacifying the baby.
• The baby should not walk around with the bottle or drink it for extended periods. This not only causes BBTD but also the baby can suffer tooth injuries if they fall while sucking on a bottle.
• Children who are above 7 to 8 months old do not require feedings in the night and hence do not give them bottle feed in the night. Further if children drink bottles lying down they are susceptible for ear infections.
• Keep your baby’s mouth clean to prevent tooth decay. Hence wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after the completion of every feeding or gently brush your baby’s gums and any baby teeth with a soft infant toothbrush.
• Train the baby to drink from a cup as early as possible, preferably when the child is 1 year of old. This prevents collection of the liquid to around the teeth; further the child cannot take the cup to the bed. You could use a cup that has a snap-on lid with a straw or a special valve to prevent spilling thereby causing messiness.
• Start brushing your baby’s teeth once the first tooth erupts.
• Clean and massage gums in the toothless areas.
• Start flossing once all the baby teeth have erupted; normally this occurs when the baby is 2 to 21/2 years old.
• If the child requires a comforter in between regular feedings, during naps or at night you must give the child a clean pacifier; however the pacifier should not be dipped in sweet fluids.
• Avoid giving the child sugar water or soft drinks filled in a bottle.
• Presence of fluoride in water prevents tooth decay and if your local water supply does not contain fluoride you must consult your dentist on the method of providing it.
• Take your child to a dentist on a regular basis from its first birthday.