What is Bottle Decay?
One serious form of rampant tooth decay in young children is what we used to call “baby bottle tooth decay” or “nursing caries”. We now use the term “Early Childhood Caries” (E.C.C.) for this condition. The cause of this disease is a sugar-containing liquid pooling around children’s teeth for a prolonged period. Remember – all milk (human and animal) contains some sugar.
The children affected by this disease are those who typically take a bottle (containing juice, milk, formula etc.) to bed; or a child who is breast-fed on demand at night. Salivary flow and swallowing are reduced at night so teeth can be immersed in the liquid for hours! If this happens over a prolonged period (and the child’s teeth are not cleaned properly) – it is highly likely they will develop tooth decay. Top front teeth are usually the first affected – but the tooth decay can rapidly spread to other teeth.
Progression of Untreated Dental Disease in Young Children – Early Childhood Caries (E.C.C)
Losing baby teeth early can adversely affect speech / eating / appearance and the self-esteem of your child. Front baby teeth do not fall out naturally until approx. 6½ – 7½ years of age. Back baby teeth are retained much longer; early loss of these teeth can cause space loss, resulting in crowding of adult teeth – requiring orthodontic (braces) treatment later.
All this can be prevented by ensuring your child only takes PLAIN WATER to bed at night.
Tooth decay is completely preventable. Untreated tooth decay in baby teeth can also damage permanent teeth.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay in Young Children
- After each feeding, wipe your baby’s mouth / teeth with a damp facecloth or gauze even if baby falls asleep – this also helps get them used to tooth brushing later.
- The only safe drink at night is water. If your child will not fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle’s contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.
- Stop bottles / wean breast-fed children by 1 year.
Note: Contact us if you notice any changes e.g. staining, “chipping”, or white marks on your child’s teeth. These could be signs of tooth decay; we can help you to deal with this.
3 Year Old Twins
Decay in primary (baby) molars
This child took a bottle of milk to bed – extensive tooth decay on all molars…
Healthy primary (baby) molars
…Her twin only took plain water to bed and all teeth are healthy
Use of bottles with milk, juice or formula and prolonged breast feeding are the main causes of decay in baby teeth.
If your child takes a bottle to bed – the ONLY safe drink is PLAIN WATER
In a nutshell…
It comes down to basics
- Keep your children’s teeth clean – brushing twice a day, flossing daily
- Keep their total sugar intake low (Including “Natural” sugars e.g. Honey, Raisins etc.)
- Bring your child to the dentist regularly – approx. every 6 months or as advised by the dentist.
Regular dental check-ups save you money – problems are spotted earlier or even prevented – more comfortable for your child and easier on your wallet!