Baby bottle tooth decay is a term used for the damage sugars and other ingredients in some drinks given to babies and young children do to their teeth.
What goes in a baby’s bottle can affect the health of their teeth, especially if they hold on to the bottle themselves and sip for long periods of time.
We recommend only giving babies and young children water or milk in their bottle, if possible, to reduce the risk of decay.
Fruit juices, no matter how natural they are, contain sugars and acid that can attack the baby’s teeth. Even weak squash drinks can cause problems for a baby’s teeth.
Giving an infant a sugary drink at nap or night-time is particularly harmful, as the flow of saliva decreases during sleep, meaning sugars stay in the mouth for longer.
While baby bottle tooth decay typically occurs in the upper front teeth, other teeth may also be affected.
If you think baby teeth are temporary, and therefore, not important, think again. Baby teeth are necessary for chewing, speaking, and smiling. They also serve as placeholders for the adult teeth. If baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, pain and infection can result. Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed.
If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth, and damaged adult teeth. In addition, the chances that adult teeth will end up being crooked are greatly increased.
The good news is that a few simple steps can help stave off baby bottle tooth decay. They include implementing good oral hygiene at an early age. Here’s how:
Wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or flannel after each feed.
As soon as the teeth start to come through, you should start brushing them. You can buy special brushes for babies and make sure you use fluoride toothpaste Clean and massage gums in areas without teeth.
Floss once all the baby teeth have come through.
Book regular dental check-ups. We recommend making an appointment for a child as early as possible. The more your child is used to the sights and sounds of the dental practice, the more comfortable they’re going to feel about going.
Other techniques to help prevent baby bottle tooth decay include:
Not filling bottles with sugared water and soft drinks. Bottles are for milk, water, formula, and special electrolyte-containing solutions when the child has diarrhoea. Juices mixed one part juice to
10 parts water to avoid empty calories are a way to interest your child in a beaker. Soft drinks are not recommended for children as they have no nutritional value.
Never allowing your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water.
Never giving your child a dummy dipped in anything sweet.
Decreasing your child’s sugar intake, especially between meals.
It’s never too late to break bad habits. If your child drinks sweetened liquids from the bottle and/or sleeps with a bottle, break the habit now and reduce the risk of baby bottle tooth decay by:
Gradually diluting the bottle contents with water over two to three weeks.
Once that period is over, fill the bottle with water.
Remember that healthy baby teeth will lead to healthy permanent teeth.