“Baby bottle tooth decay,” also known as “Early Childhood Caries” or “bottle rot,” is the term used to describe when most of the teeth within a child’s or young adult’s mouth have decayed. The “baby bottle” connotation comes from the primary drinking vessel of the affected age groups; while many children who contract baby bottle tooth decay acquire it from the excessive consumption of sugary liquids like juice, formula and soda, the disease can also spread through oral contact with the contagious bacteria known as S. mutans. While the condition is quite scary-sounding, there are a variety of steps that concerned parents and guardians can take to preserve their child’s growing smile.
Duration of Exposure is a Key Factor
Just because fluids like formula and juice are rich in sugar, that does not automatically make them unfit for your child to consume. Actively watch when he or she drinks such liquids; space things out when you can and do your best to prevent your child from falling asleep with a bottle in their mouth for more than a few minutes.
The main reason to gauge the frequency of liquid consumption is because the bacteria in your child’s mouth rely upon their sugar for food. When those bacteria eat, they release acids which erode away at your child’s teeth for up to 20 minutes after your child stops drinking; if your child keeps going back to their juice box every 5 to 15 minutes, that means those bacteria can work even longer at corroding his or her smile. A good goal is to have your child willing to drink from a cup by age 1. Furthermore, only use bottles to store dairy liquids; soda and juices should be clearly distinguished to minimize daily sugar intake.
Practice Dental Care as Soon As Possible
Your child’s dental hygiene should be considered as soon as that first tooth peeks through the gum line. Babies and toddlers should have their mouths cleaned after every meal. If your child objects to having something like a toothbrush put into his or her mouth, water that has been treated with fluoride can do wonders to maintain your child’s smile and keep them happy.
Small children require less toothpaste than the average person. Infants require no more toothpaste than the size of a single grain of rice, children require no more than a single pea’s size of toothpaste from the ages of 3 to 6. Brushing should be supervised until you can trust your child not to spit or consume the toothpaste; roughly around age 6 or 7, the same age that the child should use enough toothpaste to occupy the entire toothbrush.
You Can Continue to Breastfeed
While it is true that baby bottle tooth decay can be transmitted from mother to child, the transmission occurs through the saliva and not from breastfeeding itself. The most common ways that the disease is transmitted occur when the mother cleans her child’s pacifier or feeding spoon with her mouth and then later reinserts those items into the child’s mouth.