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  • Capital Children's General Anesthesia Dentistry

How can I prevent baby bottle tooth decay?

Four steps you can take to help your child avoid baby bottle tooth decay:

  • Never put your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice.

  • Don’t give your child sugary drinks between meals.

  • Try not to share saliva with your child.

  • Brush and floss teeth before bedtime.

What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Early Childhood Caries (ECC), also known as Baby Bottle Tooth decay, affects 15% of children. ECC is most often the decay of a child’s front upper teeth caused by prolonged exposure to sugar. The child’s teeth are slowly eaten away by bacteria that are trying to eat those sugars. Luckily, this is preventable!

What causes Early Childhood Caries?

When a baby is born they have little to no bacteria in their mouths. It is instead transferred to them by us as adults. If you put their spoon in your mouth or clean their bottle/pacifier by licking it you are unknowingly sharing your adult bacteria with them.

When a child is put to bed with a bottle or given a bottle of juice to sip throughout the day their teeth are essentially sitting in that sugary liquid. The bacteria in our mouths love sugar and start to eat it off the teeth. As the bacteria break down the sugars they also break down the enamel on our teeth causing tooth decay!

How to prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

The American Dental Association has some great recommendations for how to help your child avoid this uncomfortable condition:

  • Try not to share saliva with the baby through the common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers. After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.

  • When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and a smear (or grain of rice-sized amount) of fluoride toothpaste until the age of 3.

  • Brush the teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste from the ages of 3 to 6.

  • Supervise brushing until your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste—usually not before he or she is 6 or 7.

  • Place only formula, milk, or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice, or soft drinks.

  • Infants should finish their bedtime and nap time bottles before going to bed.

  • If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean—don’t dip it in sugar or honey.

  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.

  • Encourage healthy eating habits.

What is the treatment for ECC?

Depending on the severity of the decay, Early Childhood Caries may require extensive reconstruction or even removal of primary teeth.

The reconstruction process involves a few steps. First, the dentist cleans the teeth, removing any plaque and bacteria to prevent further decay. They may need to use a drill to ensure only healthy bone remains. Then they will place a crown made of metal or resin over the tooth to restore function, shape, and looks. For front teeth, the resin is usually used because it looks like the original tooth. The crown will not come off unless removed by a dentist and can last for upwards of 15 years.

This process requires numbing as it can be an uncomfortable process. If your child struggles with staying still, sitting for long periods, or stress and anxiety from dental visits you may consider having this procedure done under general anesthesia.

General anesthesia can be very beneficial for dental work on children and adults with anxiety or special needs. The patient is fully unconscious allowing for a faster procedure with less stress for the patient.

At Capital Children’s General Anesthesia Dentistry we specialize in dental procedures performed under general anesthesia. Our surgery center is fully equipped and our staff is well trained to make your experience the best it can be. If you or someone you love needs our help for a dental procedure in Virginia, Washington DC, or Maryland, please call us at (240) 691-4844.

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