Baby bottle tooth decay, also known as “baby bottle syndrome”, is one of the most common cause of tooth decay in children.
Baby bottle tooth decay and baby bottle syndrome are terms commonly used to describe a dental condition seen in an infant or a child which involves rapid and severe tooth decay of many or even all of the teeth. The severe tooth decay observed in baby bottle tooth decay is caused by long-term exposure of the teeth to sugar containing liquids. Milk, juice, formula or even breast milk contains a high concentration of sugar. Allowing a baby or a child to fall a sleep with the bottle containing a sugar containing liquid will cause the liquid to pool around the teeth. Decay causing bacteria consume the sugar and turn it into acid. The acid will dissolve and destroy the teeth over time. This can also occur in children that are allowed to sip on any of the sugar containing liquids throughout the day.
Upper four incisors are the most commonly affected teeth due to chronic exposure to juice or milk. The tongue usually protects lower incisors, and the rest of the lower teeth during sucking.
Educating parents about this condition is very important. It is acceptable and usually encouraged by pediatricians for babies and children to drink milk however, it should be done in short intervals.
After the baby or child is finished, a bottle with water can be offered to the child to rinse off any remaining milk. Another preventive method includes wiping or brushing the teeth to clean off dental plaque, the white soft build-up present on the surface of teeth. This will minimize the number of bacteria present and reduce considerably the production of tooth eroding acid.
Occasional applications of topical fluoride at the dentist or pediatrician¹s office can strengthen the enamel, the outer surface of the teeth, and make them more resistant to acid erosion. This can be accomplished with topical application of fluoride and without the need for systemic fluoride tablets.
Regular dental check-ups can also help keep the teeth healthy. If changes are evident during a dental exam they can be dealt with accordingly.