Baby-bottle tooth decay is a serious, but preventable, condition. It can occur when teeth are exposed to the sugars from carbohydrates for long amounts of time. Carbohydrates in liquids such as fruit juice and milk start to break down in the mouth into simple sugars. When these liquids are allowed to sit in the mouth, bacteria start feeding on the sugars. In the process, the bacteria produce acid, which can cause teeth to demineralize then decay if it remains in the mouth long enough.
This can happen if your baby is often:
- Put to bed with a bottle filled with formula, milk, fruit juice, sugar water, or any liquid other than plain water
- Given a bottle filled with sugary liquids or milk to calm or comfort him during the day
- Given a pacifier dipped in sugar, honey or any other sweet liquid
Human breast milk does not promote decay unless it is given with other sources of carbohydrates. Infants who get a mixed diet are at risk for dental decay. It’s not just what your baby is drinking, but how often. The more time he or she has liquids other than water in his or her mouth, the higher the risk of serious decay. This is why it is dangerous to let your baby go to sleep with a bottle or use the bottle as a pacifier during the day. The teeth most often affected by baby-bottle tooth decay are the upper front teeth, although others can decay, too.
Your dentist or pediatrician might refer to baby-bottle tooth decay as early childhood caries (cavities), nursing caries or nursing-bottle syndrome. They all mean the same thing.
Baby-bottle tooth decay can occur only if your baby’s mouth has a type of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. While S. mutans constitutes less than 1 percent of the oral bacteria in a child with very little decay, it accounts for more than 50 percent in children with early childhood caries
S. mutans is common and is passed from parent to child, usually when the child is between 6 and 31 months old. This period is called the “window of infectivity.” Keeping your own mouth healthy and decay-free will do much to help your child stay cavity-free.
In baby-bottle tooth decay, the top incisors typically are affected first. Often, decay occurs on the back, or tongue side of the tooth, which can’t be seen easily. The top teeth in the back of the mouth are affected next, then the bottom back teeth. The lower incisors usually do not become involved because the tongue lies over them and keeps the liquid away from the bacteria on these teeth.
Decayed teeth that are left untreated can cause pain and infection. These may require extensive and complex treatment to be saved. Teeth that are very badly decayed may need to be removed to remove the infection, decrease the risk of infection spreading to the face and allow the permanent teeth to develop in an infection-free environment.
Any type of liquid that contain carbohydrates can cause baby-bottle tooth decay if it remains around the teeth. This includes formula, milk, fruit juice, fruit juice diluted with water, sugar water or any other sweet drink. Milk breaks down into simple sugars, which are food for bacteria. Water is the only liquid that is okay for your child to have in his or her mouth for longer periods of time.
Here are some tips on preventing baby-bottle tooth decay:
- Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle filled with liquids that contain carbohydrates. This includes any liquid except plain water. Even watered-down fruit juice or milk can increase the risk of decay.
- Wean your infant, in consultation with your physician, when he or she is 12 to 14 months old.
- Don’t use a bottle during the day to comfort your baby unless it’s filled with plain water.
- Don’t dip your baby’s pacifier in sugar or sugary liquids.
- Don’t add sugar to your child’s food.
- Clean your baby’s teeth and gums after each feeding.
- Take your baby for his or her first visit to the dentist as soon as his or her first tooth erupts.
- Teach your baby to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday.
- Make sure your baby is getting the right amount of fluoride. If your town does not have fluoride in the drinking water, ask your pediatric dentist or pediatrician about fluoride supplements.
Many of our patients have dental benfits that renew in January and as the end of the year approaches, it may be time to see what services you might still need so you can optimize your dental coverage.
Dental benefits allow a certain dollar amount to be used toward your annual dental care. If you do not use your whole benefit during the year the benefit does not carry forward to the next year.
If you have any questions regarding what treatment needs you may still have please give us a call and we will be happy to review with you.
I have been told that I am grinding my teeth when I sleep. What should I do?
Grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, is a preventable complication that can lead to severe dental problems. Grinding is a common condition that may vary in intensity and frequency. It often becomes more intense and frequent with stress.
Dental problems that can be linked to grinding include:
• Wearing down of your teeth,
• Breaking your teeth or dental restorations,
• Cracking your teeth,
• Experiencing tender jaw muscles, especially in the morning,
• Headaches, stiff neck and shoulders,
• Damage to the cheek tissues.
There are a variety of solutions to help you with grinding. Night guards are the most effective treatment in helping to prevent further damage to your teeth. The advantages of the night guard are that it protects your teeth from the extreme forces of grinding. Your dentist can provide you with a custom-made night guard. Your dentist may also suggest other treatments that may include physiotherapy, massages and possibly medications like muscle relaxants. If you think you grind your teeth, please call your dentist to get a consultation for a custom fitted night guard. Your dentist is your partner in keeping your teeth and gums healthy for life.
Bad breath is caused by conditions in your mouth and is exacerbated by what you eat and how often you clean your teeth, tongue and gums. To ensure your breath stays as fresh as possible follow these simple tips:
- Brush and floss daily, ensure you brush your teeth, your tongue and your gums. Bacteria collects far back on your tongue so brush as far back as you can.
- If you are unable to brush and floss immediately after eating, drink water or chew sugar-free gum.
- Gum disease causes bad breath. Gum disease is an infection that can lead to loss of gum and teeth. Flossing helps to remove food particles caught between the teeth and under the gum line. Regular visits to your dentist for cleanings can help reverse or prevent gum disease.
- Certain foods can contribute to bad breath. Garlic, onion and some spices can affect your breath for up to 72 hours after eating. The proteins from these foods are expelled in your breath until they exit your system.
- Dry mouth causes bad breath. Drink plenty of water or chew sugar-free gum to keep your mouth moist.
If bad breath persists talk to your dental hygienist and dentist.
Protect Your Smile
Back to school is quickly approaching and more kids will be back into sports. It is important to use a mouthguard during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth. A properly fitted mouthguard can help prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw.
Sport Canada reports that overall, 69 percent of Canadian youth participate in organized sports. In any sport, whether it’s full-contact hockey or a friendly game of soccer, a little preparation can prevent costly and sometimes painful mistakes later on.
Any sport where contact with other participants or hard surfaces is possible requires protection. Players who participate in basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, squash, racquetball, lacrosse, rugby and martial arts should wear mouthguards.
Many athletes resist wearing a mouthguard because of bulkiness and poor fit. Custom-made mouthguards are comfortable and form-fitting. This leads to increased use and fewer injuries.
Dentistry on Sinclair can provide you with a custom-made mouthguard. We require a fifteen minute appointment to take a model of the teeth and the mouthguard will be ready for pick-up the next day.
Wearing a mouthguard while playing is the best way to protect your smile.