Early Childhood Tooth Decay

One serious form of decay amount young children is early childhood tooth decay or “baby bottle tooth decay”. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.

Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water. If your child won’t 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.

After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see the child’s mouth easily.

Important Information About Early Childhood Tooth Decay:

  • Early Childhood Tooth Decay is a serious dental disease seen in very young children (before age 5).
  • Children who have early childhood cavities may experience pain, have difficuty eating well, and may lose their teeth earlier than expected.
  • It primarily starts with white chalky spots on the child’s upper front teeth that can quickly turn into cavities.
  • Bacteria present in the child’s mouth are the direct cause of early childhood caries. When children are born, they don’t have any bacteria in their mouths. Tooth decay causing bacteria is usually passed on early in life from a mother to her baby.

Tips To Avoid Early Childhood Tooth Decay:

  • Brush your child’s teeth twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Do not put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup containing anything other than water.
  • Unsweetened fruit juice, sweetened drinks, milk, and soft drinks will all cause early childhood tooth decay. These liquids all contain sugar that oral bacteria can transform into acid, resulting in cavities.

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