Baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD) is the main type of tooth decay in infants. Infants that are allowed to have a bottle in bed or older toddlers that are allowed to carry around a bottle during the day are at risk for this type of tooth decay. Using a sippy cup in this manner also can cause tooth decay.
Although the decay can start soon after your child's baby teeth appear, the problem is often not noticed until about 1 year of age. The earliest sign is white spots on the baby teeth starting at the gum line. The upper front teeth (incisors) are usually damaged first. Decay appears later on the edges of the front teeth. Decay is yellow or brown in color.
Tooth decay occurs when sugar in liquids is in contact with the teeth for a prolonged time. Milk, formula, juice, Kool-Aid, and soft drinks all contain sugar. If a child falls asleep with a bottle in the mouth or constantly drinks from a bottle during the day, the sugar coats the upper teeth. The normal bacteria in the mouth change the sugar to an acid. The enamel (protective coating) of baby teeth is only half the thickness of an eggshell. The acid gradually dissolves the enamel and allows decay to occur in the teeth.
The availability of plastic bottles instead of glass bottles has led many parents to be less concerned about giving their infant a bottle. Leaving a baby with a bottle of formula or juice may be used as a quick way to help a child go to sleep at night or deal with middle-of-the-night crying. The bottle may also be used to deal with fussiness during the day. Many parents are unaware that these kinds of bottle habits can lead to tooth decay problems.
Dental repair of BBTD requires general anesthesia. If the problem is detected at an early level, the teeth can be covered with stainless steel caps. If the decay is severe, the decayed teeth will need to be pulled out.
If BBTD is not discovered and treated, decay will eventually destroy the teeth and they will break off at the gumline. The decay will continue to destroy the root of the tooth and cause ongoing pain.
If the child has teeth pulled, he may have the following problems:
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