Have you heard of baby bottle tooth decay? Baby bottle tooth decay is a condition in which children experience severe tooth decay because of prolonged or frequent feedings. Baby bottle tooth decay most often refers to infants and toddlers, and, despite its name, it can affect both children who are bottle-fed as well as breastfed.

Most common in the upper front teeth, baby bottle tooth decay is typically the result of the teeth being overexposed to liquids that contain sugar. This could be breastmilk, which contains natural sugars, or formula or juice. Even all-natural fruit juices have the potential to cause early childhood tooth decay.

Here’s what you need to know about baby bottle tooth decay as well as how you can help prevent the condition to keep your child’s smile strong and healthy!

Your Child’s Risk for Tooth Decay

As soon as your little one has teeth, they can experience tooth decay. This is part of the reason why it’s so important to get regular checkups with your Asheville dentist, as your child can experience baby bottle tooth decay without you being aware of it.

Children who are more at risk for tooth decay include those who:

  • Have shared saliva with a parent, such as through sharing utensils, because the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay can be passed down from parent to child.
  • Consume a diet high in sugar or simple starches, which include sweets such as candy and starches such as bread and chips.
  • Don’t have access to water with fluoride. Fluoride can help strengthen your child’s teeth and prevent tooth decay.
  • Have poor oral hygiene. It’s important to clean your baby’s smile daily, even if it just means wiping their gums after feeding!

You may not notice the early signs of tooth decay in your child, but your dentist will be able to spot a cavity forming. The tooth enamel may begin to appear more white in the area where the cavity is forming, and it’ll eventually turn a brownish color as the cavity manifests.

Unfortunately, the early stages of tooth decay don’t present many symptoms, and your child may be too young to tell you that their teeth are sensitive or painful.

How Can Tooth Decay Affect Children?

Even though your children’s primary teeth will eventually be replaced by their adult teeth, baby teeth still play an essential role in your child’s smile.

Baby teeth act as placeholders for the adult teeth, helping to guide them in place when the time comes for the adult teeth to emerge. They also allow your child to speak and chew properly, encouraging self-confidence and proper speech.

When your child loses their baby teeth early, the teeth surrounding the lost tooth can begin to shift, which may cause the emerging adult teeth to come in crooked. In addition, if your child has severe tooth decay in their baby teeth, there is a possibility that the bacteria can transfer to the emerging teeth, causing problems before they even emerge completely through the gumline.

Baby bottle tooth decay can not only cause your child discomfort, but affect the development of their adult smile. If the decay is severe enough, it can even lead to an infection beneath the gumline.

You Can Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

The good news is that you can prevent baby bottle tooth decay in your child with a few simple good habits.

The first thing you can is to take care of your own teeth and gums, not just to set a good example to your child, but to prevent the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease from being accidentally passed on to your baby.

Secondly, don’t assume that just because you breastfeed your baby that he or she is safe from baby bottle tooth decay. If you breastfeed, you can gently wipe your baby’s mouth clean after each feeding, and avoid breastfeeding for more than 30 minutes each time.

For those who bottle-feed their children, you can still wipe your baby’s mouth clean after they drink. However, it’s important to avoid giving your baby a bottle to go to bed with, as this can cause sugar from the liquid to damage tooth enamel.

Other helpful tips include:

  • Avoid giving your baby a bottle filled with juice or any other sugary liquid, such as soda.
  • Don’t use the bottle as a pacifier or let them walk around with one unless it’s filled with water.
  • Ask your dentist in Asheville about your child’s fluoride exposure to be sure they’re getting enough fluoride at home.
  • Have your child learn to drink from a regular cup around their first birthday.
  • When your baby begins getting their first teeth, you can gently brush them with a very small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). You can begin flossing your child’s teeth once they have two teeth that touch.

It’s also important to focus on good nutrition. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding juice for babies younger than 12 months old, and to avoid giving juice to children in a bottle period.

When Should Your Child See the Dentist?

Although it may seem pointless to take your child to the dentist when they only have one tooth or a few teeth, a dental checkup with your dentist in Asheville can ensure that your baby’s tooth or teeth are healthy and coming in properly.

Your dentist can also spot tooth decay early, even if you may not have noticed any signs, and help prevent early tooth decay from becoming a full-blown cavity. Your child should ideally see the dentist around their first birthday, or whenever they get their first teeth in.

Getting your child used to the dentist now can also help them have less anxiety about the dentist later when they get cleanings and checkups.

Has your little one seen the dentist yet? Contact us at Saunders DDS today to discuss your child’s oral health or schedule an appointment with us for your baby’s oral exam. Call us at (828) 277-6060 or request an appointment via our contact form!