Every year thousands of
children ages 1-4 suffer from extensive tooth
decay. The major culprits are sugar containing
liquids found in the baby's bottle - especially
during the night.
Just like an adult's mouth, a baby's mouth
contains bacteria. These bacteria feed on
sugars found in the liquids we drink and in the
foods we eat. Bacteria feed on this sugar
creating acid as a by-product. It is this acid
which attacks the tooth enamel and causes
Many parents put their children to sleep
with a bottle. They often find that this helps
the baby settle down and after a long and hard
day of parenting, this "time off" could not
have happened sooner. Unfortunately, studies
show that babies keep the bottles in their
mouths for many hours during the night and that
the sucking action produces a constant flow of
fluid into the mouth throughout the night.
If there is sugar present in the fluid,
bacteria on the teeth are continuously
nourished with this sugar. This sugar provides the bacteria with the
energy they need to multiply and also allows
the bacteria to create a steady stream of acid
that damages teeth.
Given enough time the acid
breaks down the tooth enamel.
Underlying layers of the teeth get infected
with the bacteria and a cavity forms. When this
happens night after night for months or years,
the entire tooth can and has been shown to be
eaten away. This is especially critical in
children since their teeth are more susceptible
to tooth decay than an adult's tooth.
A common question asked by many parents is :
Even if my baby does unfortunately get
dental cavities won't this problem be solved
when the baby's permanent teeth come in.
The reason it is important to make sure that
even these "temporary" baby teeth remain
healthy and cavity free is that baby teeth
serve several important functions.
- They serve as spacers which maintain
the proper spacing and alignment of the
teeth so that permanent teeth have enough
room to come in.
- They are important in helping the baby
learn how to speak and talk
- Healthy and nice looking teeth are
important in building self-confidence and
self-esteem. This is especially important
at such an early age.
In addition, constant sugar in the mouth can
lead to bacteria build-up to a point where
the bacteria toxins invade
surrounding gum tissue causing
gingivitis. In severe cases the
bacterial toxins can attack bone structures
supporting the teeth resulting in permanent
damage (periodontal disease).
What can parents do to protect their
children's teeth. We suggest that after every
bottle feeding you take a wet cloth or gauze
pad and gently wipe your child's gums and
teeth. This will remove any bacteria containing
plaque and excess sugar that may have built up
(a q-tip can also be used).
What liquid should you put in your baby's
bedtime bottle? Natural juices such as grape
juice or apple juice contain natural sugars
which bacteria can use to create acids. Milk
contains a sugar called lactose which bacteria
can also use to create acid. If you give you child a bedtime bottle,
the liquid of choice inside of the baby's
bottle is water.
Also try to never give
your baby a pacifier dipped in any type of
substance containing large amounts of
sugar. Many parents, for example, give
their children pacifiers dipped in honey. This
can be very bad for the baby's teeth.