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Home arrow Dentist Articles arrow Baby bottle tooth decay | Pediatrics for Parents | Find Articles at BNET
Baby bottle tooth decay | Pediatrics for Parents | Find Articles at BNET

There are so many things to be concerned about when you axe a parent of a baby, and this is one of those things. Letting your baby fall asleep every night with a bottle of milk. formula or juice puts him at risk for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (BBTD). When your baby falls asleep with a bottle nipple in his mouth, the liquid continues to drip out and pools around your baby's teeth. A baby who uses a bottle frequently throughout the day for comfort and security, as well as nutrition, is also at risk for BBTD.

What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

When milk, juice, formula and even breastmilk pool around your baby's teeth, the sugars these drinks contain combine with bacteria and create acid that attacks the teeth. Over time, this acid dissolves the tooth enamel and causes cavities, decay, severe pain and even gum disease. Baby teeth are very important to your child's health and growth--too important to lose and more important than whatever need (baby's or yours) that sleepytime bottle satisfies.

How Can I Tell If My Baby Has Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Check your baby's teeth frequently for any chalky white spots, white streaks, dark blotches, or lines. The teeth most affected by this disease are toward the front, but since you should check for other types of decay as well, inspect all your baby's teeth. Most doctors examine a baby's teeth at each well-baby checkup--important because sometimes the decay first shows up on the backside of the front teeth, which can't be seen without a dental mirror. Early detection and treatment has a much better outcome and can save your baby's teeth. If you notice anything unusual about your baby's teeth. don't hesitate to call a Houston dentist.

Can A Breastfed Baby Get Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Liquid doesn't leak from the breast as it does from a bottle; a baby must suck actively for milk to be released. Therefore, a breastfed baby is much less likely to get BBTD. However, a baby who nurses frequently throughout the night can have the liquid pooling effect in the mouth, which might cause the same problem. Keep in mind, though, that the method of delivery is usually the culprit, not the beverage; a bottle that contains anything other than water--including breastmilk--creates the leaking situation and the possibility of BBTD. Breastmilk, however, is less apt to cause decay than juice, formula or other fluids, and plenty of night-nursing babies have perfect teeth. But play it safe and brush your baby's teeth before bedtime, particularly if he's eating solids.

How To Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

* Don't let your baby doze off with a bottle of milk, formula or Juice. If your baby needs a bottle to fall asleep, fill it with water. To change an existing habit, you can dilute the fluid with water gradually until your baby accepts water alone.

* Always be sure your baby's pacifier is clean. Don't ever dip it in anything (such as sugar or honey). Don't clean your baby's pacifier by sucking on it yourself, a common but unhealthy practice, since you are passing bacteria from your mouth over to your baby!

* Avoid letting your baby use a bottle as an all-day security object.

* When your baby nears her first birthday, encourage her to use a cup rather than a bottle.

* If your baby is breastfed, try to avoid letting her sleep with the nipple in her mouth. After she falls asleep, remove the nipple to prevent pooling of liquid.

* Brush your baby's teeth at least twice a day--morning and night.

* Ask your child's doctor if your baby should take fluoride supplements. If your baby drinks formula, he may be getting fluoride from this. Don't self-prescribe fluoride, since an excess of this mineral can cause spotting on your baby's teeth.

* Inspect your baby's teeth frequently and have them checked by your child's doctor or a Houston dentist regularly.

Need a gift? Think of Pediatrics for Parents-the gift that arrives 12 times a year. See page 12 for information.

This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003). She is the author of a number of books on children's health.