The biggest misconception about pediatric dental hygiene is that it should start when your child gets their first tooth. In fact, proper dental care should start way before then. Even if your baby doesn’t yet have teeth, you should clean their mouth and gums with a damp, soft towel to keep their mouth clean. Once their teeth start coming in, it’s important to start brushing with a soft-bristle toothbrush to prevent Early Childhood Caries, or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about Early Childhood Caries, don’t worry. You may have heard of it by one of its many other common names; baby bottle tooth decay, nurse bottle carries, or night bottle mouth.
We’ll give you everything you need to know about what it is, how it affects your child and what you can do to prevent it.
What Is Early Childhood Caries?
Early Childhood Caries is much like tooth decay that happens in adults, including the long-lasting effects. Basically, when a baby is fed sugary drinks, even if small quantities, the liquid can stay in their mouth and attack primary teeth.
Even if you’re not feeding your child extra sugary drinks, they can still be in danger of baby bottle tooth decay. Naturally sweetened liquids like milk and formula can cling to your baby’s teeth and use the bacteria inside their mouth to attack the enamel that prevents tooth decay.. Without proper brushing techniques, the sugar can attach to the enamel for a long time, eventually causing decay.
What Causes Early Childhood Caries?
While the sugar in baby’s food is the cause of baby bottle tooth decay, the real biggest culprit is poor dental care habits. The more frequently and consistently you take care of your baby’s teeth by using a soft-bristle brush to clean their teeth after eating, the more you can protect them against any tooth decay.
While you don’t need to brush your baby’s teeth constantly, try to be conscious of times when your child goes long periods of time without brushing after they ate. This is particularly important if you send your child to bed with a bottle. Often, they’ll sip on the milk, formula or fruit juice before they fall asleep, leaving the sugar and bacteria to work overtime throughout the night.
It’s also possible that your child is exposed to the bacteria that cause decay through saliva. If any adult shares spoons with your baby during feeding time, it’s possible that the bacteria can get into your child’s mouth and start to attack their teeth.
Do your best to model good dental care behavior and expose your child to healthy habits early. That’s the most effective way to fight against baby bottle tooth decay.
Does Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Affect Permanent Teeth?
The short answer is: yes. Definitely. The reason we encourage parents to teach their kids about dental hygiene and care early is that healthy primary teeth are essential for healthy permanent teeth.
One of the most important functions of primary teeth is to hold space for when adult teeth come in. When your child’s tooth is damaged by tooth decay, it will affect the way the permanent teeth grow in. Without enough space, adult teeth will grow in crooked, which leads to even more complications. Crooked adult teeth are harder to clean, which means they’ll also be more vulnerable to tooth decay and other problems. Without the right treatment, baby bottle tooth decay can often lead to expensive braces or other, more involved, dental procedures for your child as they get older.
Can Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Be Treated?
In advanced stages, baby bottle tooth decay treatment is difficult. However, if you identify the signs early, it’s very easy to treat tooth decay and prevent it from developing even further. If you think your child is experiencing baby bottle tooth decay, we recommend making an appointment with their pediatric dentist immediately. They can recommend a fluoride treatment or provide other helpful tips for making sure your child’s teeth stay healthy.
How to Prevent Early Childhood Caries in Your Child
The easiest way to keep your child from experiencing any of the damaging effects of Early Childhood Caries is to use a variety of prevention techniques. As they say, prevention is the best treatment.
Beyond regularly brushing their teeth, there are a few ways you can help protect your children from tooth decay. First, make sure that your child isn’t going to bed with a bottle full of juice. If they need to go to bed with something, we recommend strictly water. Anything that may contain sugars, even natural ones, can be harmful to your child.
Also, make sure that adults don’t share utensils or pacifiers with your children to prevent bacteria-filled saliva from being passed to their mouths. Make sure to build a healthy habit of brushing their teeth in the morning and at night to keep their mouths clean from any bacteria as well as other food particles. Finally, make sure that your child gets regular pediatric dentist visits. As an expert, your pediatric dentist will be able to spot early signs of decay that can be reversed with a few new habits. They’ll also be able to help reinforce effective brushing techniques and teach your child about the importance of dental hygiene. Of course, all of this starts in your home, but having another person echo your message will only encourage your children to be excited about their own dental care.
Get More Resources from Timberwood Park Pediatric Dentist
To learn more about keeping your child’s teeth healthy and strong, check out our blog. We regularly update it with tips, strategies and guides for everything you need to know about your child’s dental hygiene. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact us or schedule an appointment for your child. We are always ready to help.