Baby Bottle Syndrome
What is meant by baby bottle syndrome?
It is a condition which is also known as baby bottle tooth decay, and its known by dentists worldwide as early childhood caries (or ECC). It occurs to young infants, where their primary teeth are severely decayed, blackened and almost broken off, even though they just came into the mouth. The most commonly affected teeth are the upper front teeth (since they are the first teeth to appear into the mouth), but in more severe cases the condition can extend to the posterior teeth as well.
What is the cause of baby bottle syndrome?
Like any decay, it occurs due to failure to maintain the cleanliness of your child’s the teeth and mouth. The reason ECC is named that way is that it happens when sweeteners, sugar, and honey are added to the baby milk, formula or juice. The bacteria in the mouth use these added sugars as a playground and produce decay at an accelerated rate. Also, children’s teeth are weaker than adult teeth, and simple decay spreads much faster than with adults. This effect increases at night, so babies that are allowed to sleep with their bottle in their mouths are at a greater risk of developing ECC. Some parents also dip their children’s pacifiers in honey or sweetened syrup to make them more desirable or use sweetened medicine and cough syrups more than they should, producing the same outcome.
How can parents prevent baby bottle syndrome?
Baby bottle syndrome is essentially the same as decay, so prevention measures are pretty much the same. The first step is removing the cause, by limiting the addition of sugars and sweeteners to milk and formula and not allowing the child to sleep with their bottle. Cough syrup should only be used as minimally as possible and under the pediatrician’s supervision. The next step is mouth hygiene, which is done by brushing. A common misconception is that their children’s teeth shouldn’t be brushed until they are older, but their teeth must be brushed as soon as the first tooth appears in the mouth, meaning as early as 6 or 7 months, with a special brush designed especially for infants. The use of toothpaste containing fluoride is best, but only an amount the size of a grain of rice until the age of 3 years and the size of a pea until the age of 6 years, under careful supervision so as not to be inhaled or swallowed. In cases where children are more liable to ECC even with proper care, dentists will prescribe fluoride supplements taken as tablets, to protect the teeth from the dangers of early decay.
What should parents do if their children suffer from baby bottle syndrome?
Seek the help of the dentist at once. The earlier the intervention, the easier the treatment. Treatment includes removal of decay and placement of fillings, in addition to preventing further progress of the disease by applying fluoride to the teeth and the application of a gel-like material called sealant that serves to close the deep fissures of the tooth, so no food particles get trapped, and the chance of decay is reduced.
It is important for all parents to take great care of their children’s teeth, as this will help prevent more serious complications in the future. In fact, the American Dental Association says, 'starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.'