All About Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Like how our teeth are important to us, your baby’s teeth are also essential. Used when chewing food, speaking and talking, healthy-looking teeth can be a tremendous boost to your child’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
If a child’s milk tooth decays and is lost too early, the tooth next to the decayed tooth may drift into the empty space, causing the adult tooth that develops later to grow crooked.
This also means your child will find it harder to brush his/her teeth properly in future, or experience other problems (e.g. not biting or speaking properly) in more severe cases.
Causes of baby bottle tooth decay
The main cause of baby bottle tooth decay is prolonged exposure to sweetened fluids from a bottle such as:
- Formula milk
- Fruit juice
- Syrups that contain honey
The frequency and duration of exposure to the sugars in these feeds also play an important role in the development of this disease. The bacteria in the mouth produce acids which attack the enamel of the tooth, and eventually destroy the tooth.
Symptoms of tooth decay
Sometimes, tooth decay may set in as soon as the baby’s first tooth erupts, and may go unnoticed.
Some of the common symptoms include:
- White spots on the tooth as a result of demineralisation
- Cavities on the tooth
- Painful toothaches
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Fever caused by gum or tooth infection
How to treat tooth decay?
The treatment options for baby bottle tooth decay vary depending on the severity of the condition. It’s always good to discuss with your dentist on the best management option for your child.
If chalky white spots or lines are detected early, your child’s teeth may be re-mineralised by applying fluoride or by modifying your child’s diet.
In cases where the decay is obvious, filling material or stainless steel crowns may also be used to cover the teeth. For cases where the decay has reached the pulp chamber (i.e. the part where the pulp sits), a pulp therapy or extractions may be recommended.
Prevention is better than cure
Some simple tips to prevent baby bottle tooth decay include:
- After every bottle feeding, take a wet cloth or gauze pad and gently wipe your child’s gums and teeth. This will remove any bacteria-containing plaque and excess sugar that may have built up
- The first tooth of your child is likely to erupt after he/she turns six months old. As soon as the first tooth erupts, you can begin to brush the baby’s tooth. But, there is no need to use toothpaste for your child yet
- All your baby’s milk teeth should have erupted by the time he turns two. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste for children to brush his/her teeth if your child is able to spit it out
- Consider flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, usually around two to three years of age
- Do not allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing a sweetened liquid, other than water
- Do not give your baby a pacifier dipped in any substance containing large amounts of honey or other sugars
- Start to encourage your child to drink from a cup at six months
- Arrange regular dental check-ups for your child and start as early as his/her first birthday