Any parent will testify that they want the best for their babies and children. We spoil them as much as we can, but do we also bribe them to keep them happy and buy our peace of mind?

A convenient way for some parents to deal with mischievous young children is indulging them with chocolates and candies in the hope that they will get pacified.

Another common method some resort to is putting cranky babies to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice, especially after a hard day’s work when they are sapped of all energy. Some parents even use a bottle as an all-day-long pacifier for a fussy baby.

Once parents and children get hooked on these habits, it can be very difficult to break. Unfortunately, these seemingly harmless practices can lead to early childhood caries (ECC), also known as ‘baby bottle tooth decay’. This term is commonly used when decay occurs in children aged six and younger. It is caused by the frequent, prolonged exposure of a baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. The upper front teeth are most vulnerable to damage from the bottle of sugary drinks, but other teeth may also be affected.

Even though baby teeth are temporary, they are still susceptible to cavities and they are just as important as adult teeth to look after. Children need strong healthy teeth to chew, speak and ensure their adult teeth erupt healthily. Therefore ensuring proper oral care in children early can go a long way in ensuring a strong foundation for permanent teeth.

It’s a no-brainer that chocolates come laden with copious amounts of sugar and can lead to tooth decay if you allow children to have more than their fair share of it. Milk too has high amounts of sugar and allowing your child to go to bed with a bottle of this seemingly harmless drink increases their exposure to sugar and puts them at risk of forming a cavity. The same applies to juice too, which is another common go-to drink for children.

By giving your baby a sugary drink at nap or bedtime, you are unwittingly allowing sugar to pool in your baby’s mouth. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar, thereby producing acids that attack the teeth.

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Ways to prevent baby bottle tooth decay

  • Don’t send your child to bed with a bottle of juice or milk. The sugar in the liquid will remain on your infant’s teeth for hours. If your baby sleeps with a bottle, gradually wean him or her off by removing it as soon as he or she falls asleep. Dilute the bottle contents with water over two to three weeks. Once that period is over, fill the bottle only with water. If they must go to bed with a drink, fill their bottle with water.
  • Massage and wipe your baby's gums with a clean damp gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
  • When your child’s first tooth comes in, brush it gently with a finger brush and water. You only need to use a smear of toothpaste, there is no need to load the toothbrush.
  • As soon as two teeth touch each other, start flossing their teeth
  • Avoid prolonged pacifier use and never dip a pacifier in honey or syrup.
  • Teach your child how to drink from a cup around 6 months of age. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends switching to a cup by your child’s first birthday.
  • Book your baby’s first visit to the paediatric dentist after the first tooth emerges and no later than his/her first birthday.
  • Refrain from sharing utensils and other items that come in contact with your child’s teeth to avoid bacterial transmission.

Although your child’s primary teeth are not permanent, they are very important for creating a strong foundation in the mouth. Baby teeth hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth. Teeth that are lost too early due to tooth decay may lead to adult teeth that are damaged, crooked and are difficult to clean.

At Micris Dental Clinic , we have fabulous paediatric dentists who specialise in treating early childhood cavities such as baby bottle tooth decay with care and compassion. Contact us to book your appointment.