No one wants to see their child in pain. And yet some parents are hurting their children's dental health without even knowing it. While it's understandable that providing a bottle at bedtime is comforting, such a considerate action could actually be rotting away your child's teeth!
Known as early childhood dental caries, baby bottle tooth decay is caused when children are exposed to sugary substances on a frequent basis. Milk, formula, fruit juice, sports drinks and soft drinks all contain sugars that can harm your teeth -- the more children are exposed to them, the greater their chances of developing tooth decay.
Putting children to bed with a bottle filled with one of these liquids, or allowing them to drink from a bottle or breastfeed beyond meal times, are common ways of causing baby bottle tooth decay.
Sugar and Spice -- But Not So Nice
Why is extended feeding a problem? As liquid pools in the mouth, it remains in contact with teeth for a long period of time. This enables bacteria to convert sugar into acids, which attack tooth enamel. Over time, the enamel and inner layers of the teeth are worn down, eventually resulting in cavities, or dental caries. Although the top front teeth are most often affected, all baby teeth are susceptible to early childhood dental caries.
Luckily, there are a few signs to look for before the symptoms get out of hand. White spots on teeth and sensitivity to cold or sweets are signals your child may have baby bottle tooth decay. Once you spot these symptoms, you can take the necessary steps to treat it and prevent it again in the future. If not treated, the tooth decay will eventually destroy the primary teeth, known as "bottle rot." Extreme cases of bottle rot may even cause teeth to fall out. Plus, baby bottle tooth decay can cause your child an extreme amount of discomfort, which in turn leads to even more difficulty with sleeping.