Many parents put their children to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. It seems like a harmless act, which helps the child settle down and get to sleep. While the parents have good intentions, they are unknowingly rotting their children’s teeth one nap at a time. Many children get into the habit of going down for a nap with a bottle. Most times, the parent’s are not willing to break the child of the habit as it will cause the child to cry and fuss until the habit is broken.
What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay affects children who drink bottles. It is a result of the baby taking a bottle when they are in bed. In this instance, the juice or milk lays on the baby’s teeth, and the resulting lactic acid causes cavities. The condition is not due to the child lying down, but rather because the milk and juice pool in the baby’s mouth because the child falls asleep before the liquid is swallowed. The upper front teeth are most affected by baby bottle tooth decay. This condition affects 18% of children in this age group.
Approximately 10% of children under the age of 5 have early childhood cavities that are caused by baby bottle tooth decay. Treating childhood cavities many times requires major dental work that can include oral surgery and extraction. The costs can be upwards of $5,000 to have the work performed.
Preventing bottle tooth decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is easy to prevent. First, do not offer the baby a bottle for a nap or at bedtime. If your child has already formed a habit of going down with a bottle, give them plain unsweetened water. Many times it is the baby bottle that the child is attached to, not the liquid inside it. Another tactic is to wean the baby from the bottle by one year old. You can do this by watering down the milk or juice until it is no longer wanted by the child. At the same time, begin to introduce sippy cups as a substitute during waking hours.
Fluoride treatments also substantially reduce early childhood tooth decay when combined with a good oral health regimen. A study by the University of Southern California concluded that children who did not undergo fluoride treatments were 2.5 times at greater risk for developing tooth decay.
Long term affects of baby bottle tooth decay
Studies indicate that early tooth decay has long term affects, as it opens the door for future tooth decay. Children under 5 who experience tooth decay are at greater risk for tooth decay than those who do not have tooth decay during the first 5 years of life. The American Dental Association goes as far to say that a history of cavities in the baby teeth is a conclusive predictor of future cavities. Early childhood tooth decay can cause poor eating habits, speech problems, low self-esteem, delayed growth, and social problems.
Does breast milk cause tooth decay?
The answer is no. Many assume that breast milk will have the same effect on a child’s teeth as cow milk, particularly breastfeeding while lying down at night. This is not the case as there has not been a link established between the two. Extensive research has been conducted on human skulls between 500-1000 years old, before baby bottles were used. These children were obviously breastfed. The research indicated that the children did not have the type of tooth decay associated with baby bottle tooth decay.
One of the reasons cited for why breastfeeding does not mimic baby bottle tooth decay is because the breast milk does not pool in the baby’s mouth the same way that bottled milk does. The reason is that unlike a bottle, when the child stops suckling, the breast does not flow milk. In addition, the breast milk flows directly into the back of the child’s mouth, behind the teeth. As a breastfeeding baby sucks, he is swallowing at the same time.
Another study was done which examined the effects of lactose, found in milk, versus breastmilk. Breastmilk contains lactoferrin, which kills the bacteria that causes tooth decay (aka: strep mutans). In a 1999 issue of Pediatric Dentistry, it was concluded that if a child were exclusively fed breastmilk, he would not have pediatric tooth decay, unless they are genetically predisposed. Furthermore, breastmilk has a similar chemical effect on the child’s mouth as water.
Baby bottle tooth decay is preventable and failure to do so will cause long term affects upon your child’s future dental health overall. To ensure that your baby does not have baby bottle tooth decay schedule a checkup with your dentist at one year of age. If your child does have baby bottle tooth decay, it is treatable. If you have any concerns about your child’s teeth talk them over with your dentist at you next c