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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Maintaining the health of primary (baby) teeth is exceptionally important.  Although baby teeth will eventually be replaced, they fulfill several crucial functions in the meantime.

Baby teeth aid enunciation and speech production, help a child chew food correctly, maintain space for adult teeth, and prevent the tongue from posturing abnormally in the mouth.  When baby teeth are lost prematurely, adjacent teeth shift to fill the gap, causing impacted adult teeth and the potential need for orthodontic treatment.  This phenomenon can lead to impacted adult teeth, years of orthodontic treatment, and a poor aesthetic result.

Babies are at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first primary tooth emerges – usually around the age of six months.  For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends a “well-baby check up” with a pediatric dentist around the age of twelve months.

What is baby bottle tooth decay?

The term “baby bottle tooth decay” refers to early childhood caries (cavities), which occur in infants and toddlers.  Baby bottle tooth decay may affect any or all of the teeth, but is most prevalent in the front teeth on the upper jaw.

If baby bottle tooth decay becomes too severe, the pediatric dentist may be unable to save the affected tooth.  In such cases, the damaged tooth is removed, and a space maintainer is provided to prevent misalignment of the remaining teeth.

Scheduling regular checkups with a pediatric dentist and implementing a good homecare routine can completely prevent baby bottle tooth decay.

How does baby bottle tooth decay start?

Acid-producing bacteria in the oral cavity cause tooth decay.  Initially, these bacteria may be transmitted from mother or father to baby through saliva.  Every time parents share a spoon with the baby or attempt to clean a pacifier with their mouths, the parental bacteria invade the baby’s mouth.

The most prominent cause of baby bottle tooth decay however, is frequent exposure to sweetened liquids.  These liquids include breast milk, baby formula, juice, and sweetened water – almost any fluid a parent might fill a baby bottle with.

When sweetened liquids are used as a naptime or bedtime drink, they are a heightened risk because they remain in the mouth for an extended period of time.  Oral bacteria feed on the sugar around teeth and emit harmful acids.  These acids wear away tooth enamel, resulting in painful cavities and pediatric tooth decay.

Infants who are not receiving an appropriate amount of fluoride are at increased risk for tooth decay.  Fluoride works to protect tooth enamel, simultaneously reducing mineral loss and promoting mineral reuptake.  Through a series of questionnaires and examinations, the pediatric dentist can determine whether a particular infant needs fluoride supplements or is at high-risk for baby bottle tooth decay.

What can I do at home to prevent baby bottle tooth decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay can be completely prevented by a committed parent.  Making regular dental appointments and following the guidelines below will keep each child’s smile bright, beautiful, and free of decay:

  • Try not to transmit bacteria to your child via saliva exchange.  Rinse pacifiers and toys in clean water, and use a clean spoon for each person eating.
  • Clean gums after every feeding with a clean washcloth.
  • Use an appropriate toothbrush along with an ADA-approved toothpaste to brush when teeth begin to emerge.  Fluoride-free toothpaste is recommended for children under the age of two.
  • Use a pea-sized amount of ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste when the child has mastered the art of “spitting out” excess toothpaste.  Though fluoride is important for the teeth, too much consumption can result in a condition called fluorosis.
  • Do not place sugary drinks in baby bottles or sippy cups.  Only fill these containers with water, breast milk, or formula.  Encourage the child to use a regular cup (rather than a sippy cup) when the child reaches twelve months old.
  • Do not dip pacifiers in sweet liquids (honey, etc.).
  • Review your child’s eating habits.  Eliminate sugar-filled snacks and encourage a healthy, nutritious diet.
  • Do not allow the child to take a liquid-filled bottle to bed.  If the child insists, fill the bottle with water as opposed to a sugary alternative.
  • Clean your child’s teeth until he or she reaches the age of seven.  Before this time, children are often unable to reach certain places in the mouth.
  • Ask the pediatric dentist to review your child’s fluoride levels.

If you have questions or concerns about baby bottle tooth decay, please contact our office.

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Testimonials

My mother is in a nursing home in Harrisville Michigan. She dropped her dentures and broke a tooth. The entire staff was in her room trying to find the broken tooth, but it must have fallen into the heat register or something. Anyway it never turned up. My brother, Rick, went to visit and called to tell me about it. "We have to do something," he told me. "I can't stand to see mom looking like this." He was planning to take a few days off and take me up north to see about getting her to the dentist to get her plate fixed. I went online and called several dentists in the area. They could not help me with the problem. Then I found Dr. Gregg Resnick DDS in Alpena. He said he could fix them and have them ready by the next day. I had our friends, Shirley and Tom Harmon, pick up the plate and take it to his office. The doctor called me (I live over 200 miles from where my mom is). Dr. Resnick was concerned that he might not be able to grind the tooth properly and that my mom wouldn't be able to chew properly. You see he was under the impression she had a full set of dentures and didn't realize that she had some lower teeth. He told me that although the tooth was broken mom would not have a problem chewing with it that way. "But, we do have a problem," I told him. "My brother can't stand to look at her with that broken tooth." He sighed and said, "Let's do it then." I could have hugged him through the phone. I promised him that if mom had a problem chewing that I would bring her handicap van and get her to his office the next day. Well, mom got her plate today. She ate dinner and said that she could chew just fine. I have Dr. Resnick to thank for this. He did me a favor and it worked out just fine. I wish there were more dentists like him. He and his staff gave me 5 star service.

Sandra C.

My name is Brad Boehm. I am a local physician in Alpena, Michigan. I had an erosion problem with my teeth that made them appear yellow and deformed. I went to see a cosmetic dentist in Atlanta, Georgia. The repair work to my teeth including veneers was over $70,000. I came home very depressed. While at a routine cleaning I discussed this with Dr. Gregg Resnick, my new dentist. He formulated a treatment plan that was identical to the plan from Georgia at less than one-third the cost. I am sure the cost in Georgia included partial rent payment for the mansion the clinic was located in.

I chose to have my teeth fixed by Dr Resnick and I truly could not be happier! During the treatment process minor adjustments were made. This required a quick end of the day visit to see Dr. Resnick instead of a day or two wasted flying to Atlanta. My family and friends comment all the time about my teeth and how I smile so much more. I would recommend Dr. Resnick to anyone who wishes to improve their smile.

Dr. Boehm

I first met Dr. Resnick 20 years ago when referred by a friend for emergency care. Now Nancy and I are thankful he has been our dentist ever since. We think of our appointments as going to an office where we will be treated as friends, not only by him, but also by the staff.

Dr. Resnick is always calm, patient, encouraging and knowledgeable in dental care. His staff reflects his demeanor. Furthermore, he is an interesting guy.

He is always interested in patients as individuals outside of the office. I remember telling him of impending surgery and later he called me at home to encourage and wish me well.

We recommend him to all our friends.

Robert and Nancy Sloan

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