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CHICAGO--Although it may seem harmless, regularly using the bottle as a pacifier to calm a restless child can turn into a nightmare for parents.
Baby bottle tooth decay happens when an infant or toddler receives a bottle filled with sweet juice or formula to take to bed. Since the baby's teeth are in constant contact with sugars for a long period of time, widespread tooth decay may result.
The condition is also known as baby bottle mouth syndrome, or nursing caries syndrome. The same problem can arise when a young child nurses from the breast for a long stretch of time because breast milk also has sugar in it. It is when the baby's teeth are in continual contact with sugars, and are not cleaned, that the decay process begins.
“The good news is that not every child gets decay from prolonged exposure to sweetened liquids,” said Dr. Ronald Testa, a pediatric dentist in Flossmoor and Chicago Dental Society spokesperson. “There are certain genetic factors that make some children more prone to tooth decay at an early age.”
So what causes the decay? As the child sucks on the bottle or breast, the sugars in the liquids pool around the teeth and create acids that sit on them. Bacteria and acids form a sticky deposit called dental plaque that clings to the teeth. The result is dental plaque that slowly dissolves the tooth structure and causes decay. New teeth are more vulnerable to decay.
“Baby bottle tooth decay usually starts in the back of the front teeth, and often goes unnoticed by parents because it can't be seen,” Dr. Testa said, “The results can be devastating for the child and parents. It is often difficult to do extensive dental work on young children--and sometimes general anesthesia may be required for the procedure.”
He explained that it's the parents' responsibility to talk about “baby bottle” tooth decay with babysitters or other family members who watch the child.
The Chicago Dental Society and Dr. Testa make the following recommendations for avoiding baby bottle tooth decay:
Don't put a child to sleep with a bottle containing anything but water.
Do not dip the pacifier in anything sweet, such as honey or sugar.
Clean the baby's teeth by wiping them with a cloth or brushing them after eating or drinking.
Visit the dentist between the time the first tooth comes in and the child's first birthday.
Have the child drinking from a cup by 9 to 12 months old.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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