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What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by frequent, long-term exposure of a child’s teeth to liquids containing natural sugars, such as milk, formula, and fruit juice. These sweetened liquids cling to infants’ teeth for a long time. Unattended, prolonged exposure to sweetened liquids can lead to tooth decay. 

Children that consume sugary drinks prior to napping are more at-risk. While the front two teeth are at the most risk for tooth decay, any of your child’s teeth can be affected. 

Baby teeth play an important role in the development of a child’s adult teeth. Essentially, baby teeth are placeholders up until the adult teeth are ready to come in. Taking care of your child’s teeth during adolescence can prevent these problems from arising: 

  • Poor eating habits
  • Problems with speech
  • Crooked teeth
  • Damaged adult teeth

If baby teeth get damaged, the likelihood of adult teeth coming in crooked is greatly increased.

How Do I Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

One of the main ways to prevent baby bottle tooth decay is to be proactive about your child’s oral health. Luckily, knowing the proper ways to care for your child’s teeth can greatly reduce the risk of baby bottle tooth decay.

Here’s how you can implement good oral hygiene with your child:

  • Always wipe your child’s teeth off with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after feeding and before naptime.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough fluoride. 
  • As soon as the first tooth comes in, start brushing your baby’s teeth without toothpaste. If you decide to use toothpaste, use a fluoride-free, baby toothpaste.
  • Once your child’s teeth touch, it’s time to start flossing.
  • Clean and massage gums in areas without teeth.
  • Visit the dentist regularly to keep up with good oral habits.

Here are a few tips to prevent baby bottle tooth decay:

  • Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle.
  • Never dip your child’s pacifier in anything sugary.
  • Use half juice, half water solutions to interest your child in a sippy cup, but stay away from bottles.
  • Avoid soft drinks—they’re unhealthy beverages for children and provide no nutritional value.

It’s never too late to begin reducing the amount of sugar in your child’s diet. You can start by diluting a sugary substance with water over the next two to three weeks. 

When Do I Need to Take my Child to the Dentist? 

If your child is exhibiting any pain or discomfort in their mouth, or if your child’s teeth begin to appear yellow or brown, they may be facing symptoms of baby bottle tooth decay.

Practicing good oral hygiene paired with a fluoride solution can serve as an effective solution to this problem. If decay goes untreated for a long period of time, fluoride use will not reverse the decay.

Symptoms to watch out for:

  • Brown or black discoloration on the teeth
  • Bleeding or inflamed gums
  • Fever, swelling, or irritability which might indicate an infection
  • Foul smelling breath

If your child is showing signs of baby bottle tooth decay, it’s time to call your dentist. Left untreated, it could lead to serious preventative treatments, or in extreme cases, loss of teeth.

Concerned about your child’s teeth? Call LeCroy Dental and schedule an appointment today!