If your infant or toddler has tooth decay, you should take him to your dentist for treatment for baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD). Very small children, who drink sweetened liquids or liquids with natural sugars, such as milk and formula, are prone to this type of tooth decay. Children, who are given pacifiers soaked in sugar and/or syrup are most at risk. Also, giving infants sugary drink during nighttime or at nap can result in BBTD, as the production of saliva decreases during sleep.
What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is nothing but the breaking down of the protective enamel of the tooth. When a baby drinks sweetened liquids via a bottle, the liquids tend to collect around the teeth and gums. The natural bacteria present in the mouth break down the sugar in these liquids causing acids to form. These acids corrode the enamel, leading to tooth damage. As the damage worsens, it results in tooth decay, known as baby bottle tooth decay.
If you think treating BBTD is not important, think again. Untreated decay can result in:
- Poor eating habits
- Speech problems
- Damaged adult teeth
- Crooked adult teeth
- Pain when the decay reaches the tooth nerve or pulp of the tooth
- Abscess in the tooth or gum
- Irritability and persistent crying
- Ear infections
- Permanent discoloration of teeth
- Nutritional problems
- Early loss of baby teeth
BBTD usually affects the front teeth, but as the damage worsens, the cavities extend to the molars as well.
Signs of BBTD
If you are wondering whether your infant or toddler has BBTD, these are the signs to look for:
- Gum or tooth infection that is causing your baby to develop fever
- Severe bleeding from the gums
- Pain and irritability
- White spots on the teeth
- Red gums
Usually, BBTD starts as white spots on the teeth and if measures are not taken to stop the progress of the decay, these spots turn black or brown. As the decay worsens, a hole will develop in the affected tooth.
How is BBTD Diagnosed?
Usually, it is difficult to diagnose BBTD in the early stages, as the symptoms may not be that apparent. However, once the decay damages the teeth and gums, it is easy for a parent to recognize the problem. That is why even infants and toddlers should be taken to dentists for regular dental checkups. By doing so, the dentist will be able to closely monitor and evaluate your baby’s teeth by checking the gum and teeth condition, the enamel and structure of the teeth inside and outside.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to take dental X-rays to find out the extent of the decay. These X-rays are extremely safe and you have nothing to worry about.
Treatment for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
It goes without saying the best treatment for baby bottle tooth decay is prevention. However, if your baby develops this tooth decay, the treatment will depend on the extent of the decay. Some of the different treatment protocols that the dentist may use include:
- Antibiotics, if there is a tooth or gum infection
- Filling up the cavities
- Extracting the tooth if the decay is extensive and severe
- Educating parents how to provide tooth care for their infant or toddler
Once the dentist treats the BBTD, the decay will be under control and thereafter it is up to the parents to ensure the decay does not resurface. This means paying close attention to your child’s dental hygiene and taking your baby for regular dental checkups to prevent further tooth decay.
If you notice signs of decay in your baby’s teeth do not wait to seek timely treatment for baby bottle tooth decay, as the decay will have an adverse effect on your baby’s health and his adult teeth.