Handing a child a bottle filled with formula, juice, or milk and letting them drink it for hours is something that happens on a daily basis. While it might seem like this completely innocent action does no harm to your child, it could actually cause a problem known as baby bottle tooth decay.
What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay, or early childhood caries as it is called, is a medical term that is applied to cases of tooth decay that are found in young children. This type of tooth decay typically occurs in children under the age of five.
The cause of baby bottle tooth decay is exposure to too much sugar. Typically, the way young children get too much sugar is through the drinks they consume. That is why this type of tooth decay is often called baby bottle tooth decay or bottle mouth.
When a young child consumes sugar the bacteria in the mouth immediately go on the attack. The bacteria will instantly attack the sugar and create an extremely destructive acid. The acid, if left in contact with a child’s teeth, is so destructive that it can wear away the protective layer of the teeth known as enamel. Once the enamel is worn away or weakened, cavities can start to develop.
Awareness is Important to Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is extremely easy to prevent. However, most parents are not aware that it is a problem and therefore don’t take proper preventative measures to prevent it from happening to their child.
Pediatric dentists along with healthcare providers are working to raise awareness about this common problem. By raising awareness these professionals hope parents will learn valuable information they can use on a daily basis to prevent baby bottle tooth decay.
Understanding the Early Warning Signs of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is one of those problems that are easier to treat in the early stages. Learning the signs and symptoms of baby bottle tooth decay can help parents identify when a possible problem may be occurring.
The early warning signs and symptoms of baby bottle tooth decay parents should look for include:
- Red or inflamed gums
- Irritability or sudden changes in your child’s mood
- Development of black or brown spots on your child’s teeth that don’t go away with regular brushing
- Baby breath that doesn’t go away
- Fever that isn’t associated with a cold or other illness
In its early stages, baby bottle tooth decay often doesn’t cause any symptoms. Pediatric dentists have the tools and knowledge necessary to identify baby bottle tooth decay in its early stages. That is why it is so important that you schedule regular appointments with a pediatric dentist as they can quickly diagnose and treat baby bottle tooth decay before it advances in severity.
A Closer Look at How Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is Treated
Treatment for baby bottle tooth decay will depend upon how severe it is. Early baby bottle tooth decay may be able to quickly and easily be treated with just a professional dental cleaning and fluoride treatment. The professional dental cleaning will remove any acid that has built up in your child’s mouth while the fluoride treatment can actively work to restore and strengthen your child’s teeth.
Severe cases of baby bottle tooth decay are harder to treat. If a child has a severe case of baby bottle tooth decay, fluoride treatments may not be able to restore and strengthen the teeth. The only treatment options that may be available include restorative dental treatments such as fillings or tooth extraction.
Ways to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is easy to prevent. Some of the ways you can prevent baby bottle tooth decay include:
- Limiting your child’s exposure to sugary drinks
- Offering your child water instead of juices, milk, or formula
- Diluting sugary drinks with water
- Properly cleaning your child’s teeth and gums either by gently wiping them with a cloth or brushing them
Schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist to learn more about baby bottle tooth decay and how you can prevent it from happening to your child.