Baby bottle tooth decay destroys infant's primary teeth

  • Published
  • By Maj. Carlos Diaz-laboy
  • 95th Medical Operations Squadron
With February as the National Children's Dental Health Month, parents are reminded the importance of caring for their infant's primary teeth. The Edwards dental clinic cautions that serious tooth decay may develop during a child's first birthday. 

Even though the child's primary teeth will eventually be replaced with permanent ones, the primary teeth are critical for proper chewing, speaking and appearance. They also reserve space in the jaw for permanent teeth. 

Baby bottle tooth decay is a condition that can destroy the primary teeth of an infant or young child. It develops when a baby frequently receives a bottle of milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids as a pacifier or comforter. This usually occurs when a child is allowed to fall asleep with a bottle during naps or bedtime. Although the teeth most likely to be damaged are the upper front teeth, other teeth may also be affected. 

Bacteria are present in a thin film of plaque that constantly forms on the teeth and uses sugar as an energy source. In this process, bacteria produces acids that attack tooth enamel. Frequent exposure to sugary liquid can result in acids attacking the child's teeth for at least 20 minutes. Frequent attacks can cause tooth decay.

The Edwards dental clinic has the following tips for parents to help protect their infant's teeth: 

-- After each feeding, wipe the child's teeth and gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. Begin brushing the child's teeth without toothpaste as soon as the first tooth appears. Continue cleaning and massaging gums in all other areas that remain toothless. Flossing should begin when all primary teeth have erupted. 

-- Make sure the child gets the fluoride needed for decay-resistant teeth. Ask your dentist about recommended methods for obtaining the proper amount of fluoride. 

-- Never allow the child to fall asleep with a bottle of milk formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquid. 

-- If a child needs a comforter between regular feedings, fill a nursing bottle with cool water or give the child a clean pacifier recommended by dentists or pediatricians. Never give a child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid. Avoid filling a nursing bottle with liquids such as sugar water, sweetened gelatin or soft drinks. 

-- Schedule regular dental check-ups. 

For more information, call Edwards dental clinic at 277-2872.