Baby Bottle Caries

Baby Bottle Caries

  Autor NN Team Data: 04.08.2009

Baby Bottle Caries
Since the very first tooth, the teeth and gums of the baby must be cared of same carefully as ours. Many mothers already know this. Therefore, we'll see why it's so important to do this and why the specialists insist on the dental hygiene of the children so much. 

The caries are the result of the contact between the normal dental bacteria in the mouth and the carbohydrates from food. The carbohydrates (either coming from sweets or milk) are fermentable under the action of bacteria and turn into acids which can "consume" the teeth enamel if they stay in contact too long. Saliva decomposes the acids and washes them away, thus helping prevent caries. This is the natural way to clean the teeth because we cannot brush them after each meal no matter how much we care about them. The problem is that while sleeping, the saliva reduces (that's why we wake up with a dry mouth), we swallow more rare than when being conscious and the liquid in our mouth tends to stay there when we fall asleep. Although the quantity is not much, it's enough to harm our teeth. 

At infants, all these are a problem as some of them receive the baby bottle before sleeping. For children, this might be a ritual to help them fall asleep. Sucking is a natural reflex which calms and comforts the babies, and sweet milk reminds them of their mother's milk. The problem is that this habit of falling asleep with the bottle in the mouth is very harmful for the teeth. The baby bottle caries is the only major problem that occurs at children under three, but very frequent too. Milk is not the only one responsible for this but other sweet liquids that we might put in the bottle too: juice, sweet tea etc. 
Unlike the adults caries which are mostly invisible from outside, the baby bottle caries tends to affect the visible surface of the front teeth. The four upper front teeth are the most affected. The four lower teeth which are protected by the tongue during sucking, then washed with saliva, remain untouched. 
The process of tooth decay is gradual. Usually, the decay crosses the enamel barrier, at 12 to 18 months. At the beginning they occur near the gum line, as white lines without calcium, and barely visible. Then, the process accelerates. In more serious cases, the upper incisors crowns are completely destroyed, leaving brownish- black stubs which ruin the permanent tooth spacing. 
Probably caries at a child don't seem a big thing. Actually, they can be very painful, especially in advanced stages, and may affect the child more than you think. As they are very visible, the look and the self-confidence of the child might suffer. Although he is so little, it doesn't mean he doesn't notice the difference between him and the others. The problem of feeding occurs here, as the child has no teeth to bite the food. As the front teeth are very important for the pronunciation of some sounds, there will probably be speech problems which can last for a lifetime. These caries will certainly disappear at the same time with deciduous teeth and the new teeth will grow, but the baby bottle caries might occur very early, at 1-2 years old and the teeth change only at 6-7 years old. The child will 
bear the caries and the unpleasant teeth aspect, exactly during the period when he forms his personality and self image. 
The most efficient way to prevent the bottle caries is easy to guess: the baby should not fall asleep with the bottle in his mouth. If you keep him awake for 15 minutes after sucking in the evening, the risks reduce a lot. If you brush his teeth after sucking in the evening, the risks disappear completely. The biggest challenge will be finding another method to help him fall asleep, as many babies care for the routine before sleep. As it will be very difficult for him to give up sucking, try a dummy. No matter how disputable the method is, it's less harmful than the milk bottle. 

Other methods to prevent baby bottle caries: 
  • Reduce the sweets, juices, etc, consumption as much as possible. After such treats, the child must brush his teeth by himself or with mother's help. 
  • Brush the teeth well after each meal, with a soft brush (not to hurt the gums) and a bandage or a clean cloth wrapped on your finger, where he has no teeth yet. 
  • After away meals when is no possibility to brush the teeth, give him a glass of water to drink. This is an excellent way to clean the teeth and the mouth. An apple is good too, and sugar free gum if he is big enough. The chewing gum prevents caries as it stimulates the saliva production, which cleans the teeth and the gums. But it shouldn't be chewed more than 5-10 minutes 
Don't run away from the dentist! We the adults are scared of him, not to mention children, but we shouldn't avoid him as he might notice the incipient caries timely, and he might give us the necessary treatment plus many advices for the teeth care. Many centers have facilities for children, to reduce the fear and anxiety. 

Read the English version of this article: Baby Bottle Caries