Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Growing up I always wanted to be a dentist. I have always had a major fascination with teeth, but also keeping them healthy and strong. But just because your child’s teeth are going to fall out eventually doesn’t mean that it okay to not take care of them. Baby bottle tooth decay is a real thing and it’s something you should be avoiding.

Believe me, I am the worst when it comes to taking care of my child’s teeth. I just think if I don’t give him sugar drinks, have him eat healthy foods and let him use his toothbrush when he wants we will be okay. Boy was I wrong!

Fox News recently reported about “7 mistakes parents make with their kids’ teeth” and believe me, I am pretty sure I am doing almost all of them. Here are the mistakes, but check out the article here for all the details:

  1. Letting kids brush alone
  2. Putting baby to bed with a bottle
  3. Making the first dentist appointment too late
  4. Offering “healthy” foods
  5. Thinking cavities are no big deal
  6. Not using fluoride
  7. Loading up on sports drinks

Even after all the time I have spent in dentists offices shadowing them and learning what they do I never thought that I would need to take some of those practices to my own home as a parent. Brushing your child’s teeth and gums is important to their health and if you don’t want their teeth to get messed up you should probably help out as much as you can while you can.

The American Dental Association (ADA) says, “Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Their first teeth also help make sure their adult teeth come in correctly. It’s important to start infants off with good oral care to help protect their teeth for decades to come.”

What causes baby bottle tooth decay? According to the ADA:

“Baby Bottle Tooth Decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.

There are many factors which can cause tooth decay. One common cause is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby.

Tooth decay is a disease that can begin with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria can be passed to the baby.

If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride, they may also have an increased risk for tooth decay. The good news is that decay is preventable.”

Fluoride has been a big debate everywhere since now they are putting it in our drinking water. But last year, the American Dental Association revised its recommendations and now suggests children age 2 and under use fluoride toothpaste, too. Although fluoride is controversial, experts agree that the research is clear: it’s one of the best ways to prevent cavities.

The appropriate dose, however, is key. For children 3 years old and younger, use the equivalent of a grain of rice, and for children 3 to 6 years old, a pea-sized amount is enough. Nevertheless, if you’re concerned about your child’s exposure to fluoride in the water and toothpaste, talk to your dentist.

Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

  • Try not to share saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers. After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.
  • When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and a smear (or grain of rice sized amount) of fluoride toothpaste until the age of 3.
  • Brush the teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste from the ages of 3 to 6.
  • Supervise brushing until your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste—usually not before he or she is 6 or 7.
  • Place only formula, milk or breastmilk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
  • Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottles before going to bed.
  • If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean—don’t dip it in sugar or honey.
  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits.

When your child’s first tooth appears, talk to your dentist about scheduling the first dental visit. Treat the first dental visit as you would a well-baby checkup with the child’s physician. Remember: starting early is the key to a lifetime of good dental health.

Fortunately my mother-in-law is a dental hygienist for Dr. Curtis Bevan DDS in Holladay, UT. My son loves going with us on our regular six month check ups where we also make sure that he is doing well too. If you need a good dentist that is great with your child I highly recommend Dr. Bevan.