Dental carries is not a new phenomenon among babies. The problem must have been present since people started feeding their child with the bottle. The prevalence rate has sharply increased as more and more babies are being bottle fed.
Tooth decay and dental carries in bottle fed babies and toddlers is often referred as baby bottle syndrome. Mothers frequently put their child in bed with a bottle filled with milk or fruit juices to make the child sleep faster. But they do not realize that in doing so, the child’s teeth are seriously damaged.
What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
When the baby is asleep with milk filled bottle still in his mouth, some of the milk or juice remains accumulated in the mouth, especially in front of the teeth. This causes the sugars present in milk or juice to ferment and form organic acids that may demineralize the enamel and in longer run tooth decay.
The bacteria present in mouth get enough food for their nourishment from the sugar. It ferments the sugar present in milk to cause the erosion. Babies who are bottle fed may have cavities in front of the top teeth.This is because the nipple shields the upper teeth and prevents the saliva to wash away sugars around them. The teeth at the bottom usually remain protected by the tongue and thus less erosion is seen. The enamel of new erupted teeth is immature and therefore it is susceptible to decay more easily.
Symptoms Of Baby Bottle Syndrome
Usually baby bottle syndrome occurs in the upper front teeth which are known as the incisors. In some cases the enamel of lower teeth is also affected. Unlike in adults where carries apparently remain unnoticed as most of the teeth affected are on the inner side of the mouth, baby’s tooth decay often occur in front portion.
Besides chewing, the teeth also help baby to speak and smile. Though they are considered to be temporary, they are foundation for permanent teeth.
Bottle tooth decay can lead to pain and infection and if they are severely decayed they may need removal. This may definitely affect child’s overall health as he may develop poor eating habit. He may also suffer from speech problem and development of permanent crooked teeth later on.
How To Prevent Baby Bottle Syndrome?
Baby bottle syndrome is entirely preventable; the only thing that needs to be done is proper oral care of the baby. To ensure clean and healthy teeth follow these preventive measures of your bottle fed child.
- If your child has the habit of taking bottle while sleeping, fill it with water instead of milk or juice. Initially the baby may refuse to drink, so add more water to milk. Gradually shift to more water and less milk. It may take two to three weeks for the whole process to shift his habit.
- Wipe the baby’s mouth with a clean washcloth from inside after each feed.
- Once the child is asleep and he has stopped sucking remove the bottle.
- When the baby’s teeth have erupted, start brushing his teeth gently. Use a soft brush while cleaning his teeth.
- Instead of giving the bottle, try to feed from a cup once he is 4 months old. The child may take some time to adjust, but over period of time persistence will alter the child’s habit of bottle feeding.
- You may also floss baby teeth once they have erupted.
- Avoid giving the child a pacifier which is dipped in a sweet.