Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: Treatment and Prevention Tips

Giving your baby a milk bottle at bedtime could lead to baby bottle tooth decay. Here’s what you can do to prevent or treat it.

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What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay refers to the development of cavities and early loss of baby teeth among infants and toddlers, usually brought on by prolonged milk bottle use. 

Think that your child’s milk teeth are not important? Think again. Not only are baby teeth important for chewing and speech development in the early years of your child’s life, but they are also crucial to the growth of straight and healthy teeth in adulthood. A lack of attention to your little one’s teeth, coupled with baby bottle tooth decay, may affect your child’s long-term oral health and self-esteem, if left untreated. 

The good news is that your child’s chompers can still be saved if the problem is detected early.

Causes of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by frequent and long-term exposure of your child’s teeth to sweetened fluids, such as milk, formula, fruit juice, and syrups with sugar or honey. Natural sugars from these fluids tend to cling to your child’s teeth and feed bacteria in the mouth, which produce acids that attack the teeth.

Symptoms of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle tooth decay can affect any of your child’s teeth, but mostly occurs in the upper and lower front teeth. 

Other common symptoms of tooth decay to look out for include:
White spots on the surface of the teeth
Tooth cavities, or holes in the teeth
Toothache
Swollen or bleeding gums
A fever caused by gum or tooth infection

Treatment for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Tooth decay in infants and toddlers can become a critical issue if left untreated. Your child will likely continue experiencing pain, worsening infections and permanent damage to the gums and bones. 

Here are some treatment methods to explore if you suspect that your child has tooth decay:
Discuss the best management option for your child with your dentist
If chalky white spots or lines are detected early, the dentist may apply fluoride to your child’s teeth and suggest changes to his or her diet to remineralise the teeth
If the decay is obvious, dental filling material or stainless steel crowns can be used to cover the teeth
If the decay has reached the pulp chamber in the centre of the tooth, pulp therapy or tooth extraction may be considered

How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can prevent this not-so-sweet problem from occurring.

Some prevention tips to consider include:
Gently wiping your child's gums and teeth with a wet cloth or gauze pad after every bottle feed to remove any dental plaque and excess sugar that may have built up on the teeth
Begin to brush your baby’s tooth as soon as it erupts, which will likely occur when he or she is about six months old. There is no need to use toothpaste at this age yet, though!
Start adding a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to your child’s toothbrush when all of his or her baby teeth have erupted. This usually occurs when your child passes his second birthday
Consider flossing your child’s teeth when all of his or her baby teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of two and three 
Avoid leaving a bottle of sweetened liquid in your child’s mouth when he or she is asleep 
Start encouraging your child to drink from a cup at six months old
Encourage your child to drink sweetened fluids such as juices from a cup
Start weaning your child from the bottle when he or she is around one year old
Arrange regular dental check-ups for your child, starting from as early as his or her first birthday
Visit the dentist promptly if your child has dental problems

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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: Treatment and Prevention Tips

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