Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

If you are the parent of an infant or young toddler, you may find yourself trying anything to get your child to either sleep through the night and/or soothe themselves to sleep. However, one common tactic – letting your child have a bottle or sippy cup before bed or during the night in their crib – can lead to damaging tooth decay.

Baby teeth are important. They set the stage for the secondary teeth and jaw development. Early childhood tooth decay, nursing caries, or bottle caries, as you may have heard them referred to by your pediatric dentist, can lead to infections, abscesses and a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. We list the top ways to wean your child off the bedtime routine bottle and drinks in bed, as well as how to make sure you avoid a buildup of decay.

1. Set a good example with showing your child the way you manage your own dental health – this parent to child modeling is #1 on almost every list of preventable dental issues. Your children learn from you, so if you have a good dental routine, let them join in with their own routine alongside you. If mommy or daddy don’t have a bottle before bed or drink in their bed, they may not want one either.

2. Make sure you are cleaning your child’s teeth, even if they are just coming in or they only have a few – many parents make the mistake of waiting to brush their child’s teeth until they have a full set or until they are fully erupted. But you should start cleaning your child’s teeth at the first sign of a tooth bud. Use a wet washcloth to wipe their gums and tooth buds, and as they get older, start adding a rice-sized amount of toothpaste to a small toothbrush. Brush for your child to avoid them chewing the brush or not getting to all the necessary spots in the back of the mouth, around the gumline, etc. At a young age, it’s important that parents help children brush.

3. Never put your child in their crib with a sippy cup or food and remove the bottle before bed when your child no longer needs nightly feedings – First, let’s tackle the bottle/sippy cup in the crib. Not only is this bad for teeth, but it can lead to choking and an increased risk of ear infections. If your child is already accustomed to sleeping with a drink in their bed, break the habit by adding something else to their bedtime routine, while removing that one, and giving them a safe toy to play with instead (only if they are old enough – check guidelines). If your child is still making feed to sleep association, he/she may need to learn how to self soothe. This can be done gently by sitting by your child and soothing them with your voice, shushing or singing. If they are upset, pick them up and soothe them with a cuddle, and maybe a pat on their back. Your child may not like these subtle changes at first, but with repetition, they will grow accustomed to these new routines.

Pediatric Dental Associates of Alabama is led by top-rated pediatric dentists with locations in Birmingham, Cullman, Medplex-Hoover, Oxford and Pell City. Our vision is to be the premier provider of pediatric dental services in Alabama. Beautiful smiles are our specialty!

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