The Specialist

Baby bottle tooth decay

Tooth decay is the most common chronic infectious disease of childhood.

In infants, it is referred to as nursing bottle cavities or baby bottle tooth decay.

One out of four infants suffer from tooth decay. This is a startling statistic!

In this issue we will discuss the disease referred to as baby bottle tooth decay.

Let’s talk prevention. Baby bottle tooth decay is a common disease of an infant’s baby teeth. This usually occurs when parents or caregivers place the infants to bed or for a nap with the bottle laced with sugary drinks, cow’s milk or some type of formula. This is done in an attempt to relax the baby by placing the bottle in their mouths then putting them to sleep. The obvious attempt here is to pacify.

Because of the intimate contact of the upper front teeth to the liquid for an extended period of time, the sugar in the drink is consumed by the bacteria causing acid development, leading to the erosion of the enamel.

The enamel of baby teeth is thinner than adult teeth. Therefore, it is much easier for the acid from bacteria to erode their enamel and form cavities.

Bacterial plaque, tends to build up on teeth as early as 20 minutes after contact. If it is not removed effectively, tooth decay begins.

The importance of baby teeth

Baby teeth are important and essential for the following reasons:

– They still get cavities which cause pain, suffering, fever and infections.

– Early loss of an infant’s teeth could result in a negative traumatic experience that could affect their dental/medical outlook.

– The presence of baby teeth set the stage when they are naturally lost by making a pathway to the entrance of healthy permanent teeth.

– Baby teeth are needed for normal facial development.

– Baby teeth are needed for biting and chewing, promoting proper nutrition.

– Baby teeth are needed for proper speech development, a natural smile and building of self-esteem.

Cavities usually begin in the upper front teeth. It tends to begin with white spots at the gum line. Often times, they are difficult to see, so a dental visit is required.

Prevention and minimization of baby teeth decay

1. Sterilize your baby’s feeding utensils and keep them separated from other family’s utensils.

2. Keep your baby’s teeth and gums clean with a clean gauze or soft cloth.

3. Brush your baby’s teeth using a grain of rice-size amount of toothpaste for children under age 3.

4. Brush with a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste for ages three to six years. This should be supervised by an adult.

5. Only use breast milk, formula or sterile water in bottles.

6. Avoid sugary drinks, juices and sweetened water.

7. When your baby is napping, remove bottle from their mouth and crib.

8. Sterilize the pacifier and avoid dipping in sweets in an attempt to enhance taste.

9. Try to get the child to use a cup by age one.

10. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables as a practice.

11. See your friendly dentist by age one, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

In conclusion, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. This ancient adage is applicable here. This is because the cure may be associated with pain, suffering, trauma and considerable expense. Also, teeth and gum infections can lead to life-threatening situations.

Finally, you are responsible for your baby’s overall oral health and wellness.

Be proactive. Protect your baby’s teeth and give them the best opportunity for healthy teeth and a healthy life.

• Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is the founder and chief executive officer of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or

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