“Baby Bottle Tooth Decay” is a scary name for what is usually a relatively simple condition: cavities in baby teeth. The reason for the dramatic moniker? Most baby cavities occur because bottles are left in the crib overnight and are filled with milk, juice, or other sugary drinks. Because less saliva is produced while sleeping, the combination of a dry mouth and sugar creates a prime breeding ground for bacteria and the development of plaque.
This type of decay can occur even without the bottle. Sharing a spoon with a baby or babies sharing pacifiers can spread oral bacteria that can wear down teeth if they’re not regularly cleaned. This can be a problem even before the teeth come in. It’s important to get in the habit of washing down baby’s gums with warm water, which will prevent sugars and bacteria from hurting the gums and it will get them used to the feeling of having their mouth cleaned. As soon as the teeth begin coming in, you should begin to gently brush the front and back of the teeth using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
Although it doesn’t seem like the baby teeth should matter because they will all eventually fall out, problems with the baby teeth can cause the adult teeth to grow in improperly. The first teeth are also what helps the child to learn how to speak and chew correctly, and having damaged baby teeth can hamper the development of these essential skills.
In addition to taking good care of the gums and baby teeth, remember to never give your baby a bottle of anything but water overnight, and remember to limit sugary drinks in general. Any kind of milk or formula — including breast milk — can also cause tooth decay if the teeth and gums aren’t cleaned after feeding, so remember to be good about cleaning them at least twice a day, every day. Finally, remember to see the dentist every 6 months after first teeth emerge so any problems can be treated before they become worse. Plaque can begin to build up early, and only a dentist can clean it away!
Although Baby Bottle Tooth Decay sounds like a scary condition, cavities in baby teeth are easily avoidable as long as good oral hygiene is practiced every day. If cleaning the teeth and gums is a part of your baby’s life from the very beginning, he or she will be more likely to brush and floss every day as they get older and will get them well on their way to a lifetime of bright smiles and problem-free teeth!