What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay is a type of caries that affects milk teeth and is commonly seen in children below the age of 3. It is also known as nursing bottle caries, bottle mouth syndrome, early childhood caries, or night bottle syndrome.
What are the main causes of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
It occurs when a baby's tooth comes into frequent contact with too much sugar, which means prolonged exposure to milk or sugary drinks is the main cause.
Infants and toddlers are at higher risk for baby bottle tooth decay if they routinely receive milk through a feeding bottle and keep it in the mouth for a long time, sometimes overnight.
Caries can also be caused when babies are soothed with pacifiers that are frequently covered with sugar or honey to stop crying.
Signs and symptoms
Baby bottle tooth decay usually affects the upper front tooth. The lower front tooth usually escapes as they are shielded by the tongue.
What to look for?
Black/brown/white spots on teeth
Brown areas on teeth with severe destruction
Cavities with pits or holes in teeth
Swollen or bleeding gums
In some cases, the carious process in the affected tooth may be so severe that only root stumps are left.
How is baby bottle tooth decay diagnosed?
Dentists diagnose baby bottle tooth decay by examining the clinical appearance of teeth and taking a history of the child's nursing habits.
Treatment of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
If lesions are detected early, they are managed by fluoride application.
Mild to moderate lesions are treated by excavating and restoring.
Based on the extent of the lesion, pulp therapy procedures will be done.
To evaluate the progression of caries and the condition of other teeth, radiographs are advised.
Drainage is done to treat abscess if it is present.
If the tooth is grossly decayed and unrestorable, dentists will advise extraction followed by space maintenance.
Parents are advised to brush their child's teeth using fluoridated toothpaste.
Parents are also instructed to feed their child fruits, vegetables and vitamin D rich food which may help prevent caries.
If not treated, baby bottle tooth decay can lead to severe complications such as;
Chronic pain in the affected teeth elevates on eating hot, cold, or spicy food.
If caries progresses to an abscess, the child may experience fever and swelling of the affected soft tissue.
Along with speech and aesthetic problems, early loss of milk teeth can cause difficulties in mastication and the eruption of permanent teeth.
How to prevent baby bottle tooth decay in your child?
Even before teeth erupt into the oral cavity it is essential to develop an oral hygiene routine for your child.
After each bottle feed, gently wipe your child's gums with a moist cloth or gauze pad to remove any dental plaque and extra sugar that may have amassed.
Visit the dental clinic within 6 months after the eruption of the first milk tooth.
Once the tooth erupts brush it gently with a soft toothbrush.
Caries can be prevented by using a toothpaste with fluoride concentration of 1000ppm and above.
By the age of one year, wean your child off the bottle and begin training them to drink from a cup.
Importance of milk teeth
There are 20 milk teeth and the first tooth erupts at the age of 6 months. Some parents or caretakers believe that milk teeth don't really matter as they are replaced later. But in fact, milk teeth or deciduous teeth play a major role in a child's health and development. They assist in speech development and also improve a child's nutrition by helping them chew food. Another main function is to provide guidance to permanent teeth. If a child loses a tooth early due to baby bottle tooth decay or other conditions, then the successor permanent tooth will erupt early, causing misalignment. Overall, milk teeth can also boost a child's confidence and self-esteem.