Your baby is too young for tooth decay, right? Wrong. While most one-year-olds have healthy teeth, 5% develop a form of rampant tooth decay called "nursing caries" or "baby bottle mouth" soon after their upper teeth start to erupt. The bacteria that cause this decay flourish when a baby's teeth are in prolonged contact with formula, breast milk, cow's milk, fruit juice, or other sweet drinks.
What is "Baby Bottle Caries"?
"Baby bottle caries" (or "nursing bottle caries") refers to a pattern of tooth decay which occurs in the teeth of infants and preschoolers who are allowed to drink from a bottle containing a sugary beverage either frequently or for prolonged periods of time (such as while napping or sleeping at night).
Tooth decay occurs when the enamel, which is the protective coating on the teeth, breaks down. The mouth naturally has bacteria in it. When a baby drinks liquids through a bottle, the liquids can pool near the gums and teeth. Most liquids contain sugars. In fact, most foods that people eat ultimately break down to become sugar.
The sugars and bacteria combine to form a substance called dental plaque. When the bacteria break down the sugars, acids are formed. These acids can erode the enamel on the teeth. The result is damage to the teeth. As the damage progresses, the decay can lead to:
With this condition, typically a child's front upper teeth are most affected and have extensive decay. The child's bottom front teeth are often spared from decay (possibly related to the fact that these teeth are somewhat protected from the sugary drink by the nursing position of the tongue). Any other teeth that are present in the child's mouth are also placed at greater risk for the formation of cavities and may be extensively decayed.
There is nothing special or unique about the bottle caries condition. It is simply a case of a sugar supply being present as a food source for oral bacteria (over a prolonged time period) and therefore tipping the balance between demineralization and remineralization greatly in favor of tooth decay formation. What is unique about baby bottle caries is that the responsibility for the decay lies with the adult (no matter how well meaning) who provided the sugar source.
Bottle caries usually occurs in babies who go to bed with a bottle or drink from a bottle throughout the day. But it can also occur in babies who breastfeed intermittently during the night. This kind of tooth decay affects mainly the upper teeth, because the baby's tongue covers the lower teeth during nursing. Decay starts at the gum line in the front teeth and, if not promptly stopped, spreads to include other teeth as they come in.
Once started, nursing caries can progress so rapidly that the affected teeth are totally destroyed in a matter of months. The consequences for the baby's appearance, nutrition, and speech development can be severe.
To Protect Your Baby From Developing Bottle-Nursing Caries, Follow These Guidelines:
These Suggestions Will Make Weaning Easier
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