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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.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

If you want to know what I think of Dr. Afzali and her staff all you really need to know is that I live in Portland and I fly to San Diego to see Dr. Afzali for all my dental work. That might seem a bit extreme, and perhaps it is, but hear me out before you decide. A couple of years ago when I was living in the Bay Area I had to have one of my front teeth removed and dental implant inserted in its place by a dentist in the Bay Area. The implant looked a little shorter and darker than my other teeth, and even made my gum above it look a bit darker than the adjacent gum. In short, it didn't look natural. So I wasn't completely satisfied with how my smile looked, but I thought that was the best that could be done. It wasn't.

Last summer while I was in San Diego visiting my parents I went to Dr. Afzali for a routine cleaning. She examined my mouth and immediately asked me whether I was happy with the way my implant looked. When I said I wasn't, she explained that she could make it look better and possibly even indistinguishable from my other teeth. She was right. My implant looks just like my other teeth, and my gum is pink again. In fact, my new implant looks so natural that I sometimes forget it's an implant. I couldn't be happier. One final point. Dr. Afazli's entire staff is great. When I walk in they all make me feel like I'm the most important patient they have. And Julie is particularly great. Because I live in Portland my visits to Dr. Afzali's office had to me perfectly timed with receipt of the various parts necessary for my procedures. Julie made sure that everything arrived when necessary, without fail, so that no flights or appointments had to be rescheduled.

Riley P.

Recently, while on a trip from Canada to visit friends in San Diego, I broke a tooth. I phoned RB Dentistry and was given an appointment without delay. Dr. Mary Afzali was reassuring and professional and did an excellent job fixing the broken tooth. Her dental assistant, Marinette, was kind and gentle and made me feel comfortable throughout the procedure. Julie at Reception was welcoming, warm and made me laugh with her wonderful sense of humour and handled the insurance processing with no complications. Thank you so much Dr. Afzali, Mari and Julie for one of the most pleasant dental appointments I've had in a long time! Hope to see you in Vancouver, B.C. sometime!

Pam C.

I know I am in good hands with Dr. Afzali at RB Family Dentistry. The cavity fillings and tooth root fillings I got there were done so well that when I went to the Southwest College Dental Hygenist school to help out a friend, they could barely even detect the fillings! The teachers there were very impressed. At RB Family Dentistry, the staff and hygenists are friendly, organized and very knowledgable, and the Dr. always gives me as much time as I need and answers all of my questions. The office is beautiful and state-of-the-art. They never try to sell me on additional products or services that I don't need.

Scripps Ranch M

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RB Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
16776 Bernardo Center Dr. #105 San Diego, CA 92128
Phone: (858) 485-0044 URL of Map