Early childhood caries (ECC), also known as baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD) is a preventable, infectious disease caused by certain types of bacteria (bugs) that live in your mouth. Bacteria stick to the film on your teeth called plaque. The bacteria feed on what you eat, especially sugars (including fruit sugars) and cooked starch (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.). About 5 minutes after you eat, or drink,the bacteria begin making acids as they digest your food. These acids can break down the tooth’s outer surface and dissolve valuable minerals. The result is cavities. Children who snack frequently, have a high level of bacteria, or go to sleep with a bottle containing anything other than water, are more likely to have ECC.
How to prevent ECC?
When children go to bed with a bottle containing milk for example, liquid sits in the child’s mouth for an extended period creating a perfect environment for bacteria. You can’t stop feeding your child nutritious food, but you can regulate when and how often your child is exposed to “sugarhits.” Limit between meal snacking and if a bottle is needed, use only water at nap/bed time.
Research shows that children are not born with the bacteria that cause decay, but are infected with it, usually at an early age, from their caregiver – primarily mom. If you have ever had a cavity, you carry the bacteria that cause cavities. Caregivers with untreated cavities have higher levels of bacteria in their mouth and are more likely to pass bacteria to their children. Bacteria is passed through saliva and can occur before the first tooth appears.
- Avoid sharing spoons and forks with your child
- Use water to clean a pacifier instead of cleaning it in your mouth
- Proper feeding techniques and cleaning your child’s mouth will also help prevent ECC
- Hold your baby when you feed him/her
- Remove the bottle when baby falls asleep
- Wipe off baby’s teeth/gums with a damp washcloth at least
twice per day and when baby is done eating
- Stick to a feeding schedule and limit between meal snacking
- Take your child to a Dentist (DDS) by age one
Parents play an important role in the early detection of decay. Lift your child’s lip to look for early signs of decay – white spots. If you see white spots, especially on your child’s front teeth, schedule an appointment with dentist. Your dentist may want to apply fluoride for a few months to protect your child’s teeth from further damage.
When your baby is six months old, begin brushing baby’s teeth with a small, soft toothbrush without toothpaste. At this age, your dentist
or pediatrician may want to prescribe fluoride supplements. Fluoride helps strengthen developing teeth making them more resistant to decay.
Children that drink fluoridated community water should not receive fluoride supplements.
Begin brushing your child’s teeth with a pea-size dab of toothpaste
at age two. Instruct your child not to swallow toothpaste. Continue to help your child brush their teeth until they have mastered this skill –usually around eight years old.
Childhood Teeth Decay Stages