Tooth decay is the most widespread diseases among children today – and it’s almost entirely preventable. Tooth decay is called early childhood carries (cavities) when it occurs in children ages 6 and younger. Tooth decay is 5 times more common than asthma, 4 times more common than childhood obesity and 20 times more common childhood diabetes. All of this means that if you’re not careful, your child could easily wind up with childhood tooth decay. But, have you heard of baby bottle tooth decay? Below we discuss tooth decay that most affects babies and toddlers.
One of the most common forms of early childhood caries is “baby bottle tooth decay,” which is caused by the frequent, prolonged exposure of a baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. Baby bottle tooth decay primarily affects the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.
Early symptoms of baby bottle tooth decay are white spots on the surface of their teeth or on the gum line, and tooth sensitivity and pain. More severe symptoms can appear in advanced stages of baby bottle tooth decay, and include: brown or black spots on teeth, bleeding or swollen gums, fever, and bad breath. If your child shows any of these symptoms, you need to see your pediatric dentist at once to prevent further, more complicated problems from arising.
Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can prevent early childhood caries and baby bottle tooth decay.
Don’t send your child to bed with a bottle of anything EXCEPT water. It’s very common for parents to send their child to bed with a bottle of milk, unfortunately, that can lead to tooth decay. Milk has a high amount of sugar, and allowing your child to go to bed with a bottle increases their exposure time to sugar, and improves their chances of contracting a cavity. The same goes for juice, which is another popular drink for children. However, some of the leading juice brands are packed with sugar, despite being labeled as 100% juice. To get around this, some parents dilute juice with water. But even when it’s diluted, juice contains a very high amount of sugar, which can easily lead to tooth decay.
If they must go to bed with a drink, fill their bottle with water.
Clean their gums after each meal. After each feeding, simply wipe their gums with a clean wash cloth that’s been dampened with cool water.
Gently brush your child’s first tooth. As soon as your child’s first tooth arrives, it’s time to start brushing! Brush their first tooth with a children’s toothbrush that has very soft bristles. You only need to use a smear of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice.
Limit sugary drinks and food. Prolonged exposure to sugary foods and drinks can lead to early childhood caries. You can get ahead of this by limiting the sugar your child consumes, and substituting it with a healthier diet that incorporates low sugar fruits and vegetables.
Schedule an appointment with our office if your child is experiencing tooth pain or sensitivity, as these symptoms may indicate that they have a cavity that needs to be fixed by a pediatric dentist. We will provide a treatment plan that works for your child’s needs, and sets them up to achieve a healthy smile that can last a lifetime.