Pediatric Dentist: Commonly Asked Questions About Teeth and Baby Bottles

Any pediatric dentist will tell you that, although a child's baby teeth are not permanent, they are still vital to the child's overall health. In fact, unhealthy baby teeth can actually cause permanent damage to the adult teeth that follow. Remember, adult teeth form just behind the roots of the baby teeth, and infection and other problems can easily spread before the baby teeth fall out.

Why are milk bottles a concern for dental health?

One of the most common concerns for a child’s milk teeth is, ironically, the milk bottle. Certain feeding habits can put your child at risk of tooth decay and other problems as early as infancy. Here are commonly asked questions about baby bottles and infant's teeth.

Do baby bottles cause tooth problems?

The bottles and pacifiers your infants love can indeed cause tooth decay. However, it is not the bottles themselves that cause the damage, it is what your child drinks from them. Drinks like juices, milk or formula are rich in sugars. Bacteria in your child’s mouth feed off these sugars and in the process, release acids that harm the teeth, known as baby bottle tooth decay. Typically, this condition only affects the top front teeth, but other teeth can be harmed as well.

What problems arise as a result of baby bottle tooth decay?

Aside from the initial tooth decay, poor health in your child’s baby teeth can cause a whole host of other problems. It becomes more likely that adult teeth will come in crooked, and the child can be at a higher risk of developing speech impediments and poor overall eating habits.

How can baby bottle tooth decay be prevented?

The good news is that these issues are largely preventable. While you cannot eliminate sugars from your baby’s diet (natural sugars are present in baby formula, as well as breast milk), you can control when your baby is exposed to these sugars, and for how long.

Brush your baby’s teeth

Even if only a single tooth has come in, you should be gently brushing it. You do not need to use toothpaste, or if you do, be sure to pick an infant-friendly one. You do not need to brush rigorously or for a long time, just gently for a few seconds after each feeding. Wiping your baby’s gums after each feeding with a soft cloth or gauze is also helpful.

Avoid sweetened pacifiers

Some parents may dip pacifiers in syrup or something else sweet to calm a fussy baby. Try to do this as infrequently as possible to limit the amount of sugar your baby’s teeth come in contact with.

Avoid bottles at nighttime

Saliva production decreases when your child sleeps. Babies who are given a bottle to sleep with will not only be consistently exposed to sugars all night, but the sugars will be more concentrated, without as much saliva to rinse the teeth.

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