Tooth decay is not a pleasant thing to deal with at any stage of life, but while tooth decay in an older person might simply lead to a few fillings or a gappy smile, tooth decay in very young children can be a much more serious matter. Baby bottle tooth decay, also known as early childhood caries, can afflict the teeth of toddlers and even young babies who are growing their very first teeth, and all parents should be aware of how to detect this problem and how it can be treated if it arises.
What is baby bottle tooth decay, and what causes it?
Technically speaking, baby bottle tooth decay is functionally identical to the tooth decay experienced by older children and adults. However, since younger children do not have years of gradual wear and tear contributing to the damage to their teeth, extensive tooth decay in young children is usually caused by a more serious problem.
The most common cause of baby bottle tooth decay is also what gives it its evocative name: bottles of milk. Lactose is a sugar just like glucose and sucrose, and it can cause similar damage to teeth if they are not cleaned frequently; therefore, the most common cause of baby bottle tooth decay is allowing a child to go to bed with a bottle of milk, a measure often taken by stressed parents to keep their young children quiet at night.
However, the bottle isn't the only potential culprit behind baby bottle tooth decay. Excessive amounts of sugary drinks or a diet high in sugar and starchy foods can also contribute to early tooth decay in children, particularly because young children tend to be less than dedicated to oral hygiene.
How can you prevent baby bottle tooth decay in your child?
It goes without saying that you'll want to do everything you can to prevent early tooth decay in your young child, and the most effective way to do this is to schedule frequent checkups with a dentist specialising in paediatric dentistry. A child dentist will have the skills and experience required to spot enamel demineralisation and other early warning signs of baby bottle tooth decay that are too subtle for laymen to notice, which will give your child the best chance of stopping any tooth decay before it starts.
However, there are many measures you can take to minimise the risk of tooth decay in your young child. Besides obvious measures like not letting your child go to bed with a bottle, you should also supervise them as they brush their teeth to prevent lazy brushing that can miss vital areas. If your child is too young to brush their own teeth but has one or more erupted tooth, cleaning their teeth for them with a special soft toothbrush or clean washcloth can help promote good oral hygiene from an early age.
As a mum, I know how essential sport can be to children's development. Through team sports like soccer, kids learn persistence, sportsmanship and the value of supporting their team members. However, all that learning carries some risk as well, and a stray elbow or a ball to the face can result in oral injuries. I have been the mum rushing to the emergency room with a precious permanent tooth sitting in a cup of milk. Admittedly, at the time, I wasn't even sure if the cup of milk was the right solution. As a parent, you will face those situations, and I'm here to make sure you know what to do when they pop up. With this blog, let's explore children's dentistry and sports injuries together... I want you to have the info you need to stay cool, calm and collected, regardless of how many teeth are on the pitch.