Baby bottle tooth decay is one of the saddest things a young mother has to face. The self recriminations are endless.
“I’m a horrible mother.” I can’t believe I let this happen.” But it is not a matter of neglect or abuse in most cases. It’s just that something was missed.
Trying to learn everything about raising your new baby is a monumental task. It is not surprising that something is missed or a mistake is made. Every adult you see today, including you, had something occur that he or she survived in childhood, something missed, a mistake made. There’s hope!
When you take your 1 year old to the pediatrician or physician’s assistant and find everything is wonderful, you beam with pride. Then the next visit slips a bit and is delayed. Or you think we’re OK, I’ll get that visit scheduled soon, I’ve got this under control. Then you suspect a possible problem and call for an appointment for your toddler’s first dental visit.
“I am sorry, but the stains on your toddlers teeth aren’t stains at all. The teeth you see with the brown and black colors? They have severe cavities.”
“They are so severe that your child needs to be hospitalized to have his dental treatment done, under general anesthesia. Some of those teeth need root canals and one will have to be pulled.”
That’s when a young mom cries. Tears well up, stream down her face, and sobbing starts.
We try to console her, but what she is facing is the condition is known as toddler tooth decay. I see it much more frequently than I want to.
Happy Birthday Little One
Let’s rewind a bit to the first few weeks after your baby’s birthday. This will be where we can intercept the pathway that leads to baby bottle tooth decay, bottle rot, or bottle mouth, other names for the same condition. This is where a change in direction makes baby bottle decay totally avoidable.
You have plenty of ground to cover now. A wonderful new baby that is a delight to hold and cuddle and nurse. You watch them fall asleep, listen to their breathing and the occasional sigh. It is wonderful, truly wonder filled, amazing.
Slowly it dawns on you that life is never going to be the same again, and that’s OK. You are exhausted after delivery and initially there is someone right there to help you. After a few weeks you develop a routine of sorts that appears to be working.
Rewarding? Yes, but hard work too. You’ve undoubtedly got friends or a mom giving you plenty of advice or maybe not enough. There’s definitely a lot to learn. And after just a few weeks, I’ll bet you are looking for a few hours of extra sleep.
Getting Some Rest-A Pacifier Can Help
If you find that your baby’s suckling urge is not satisfied with feeding, consider a pacifier. It can help both of you sleep through the night. I recommend the NUK Newborn Orthodontic pacifier. I used it with all of my daughters.
The NUK company has a variety of new mom products starting from 0 to 3 months to help you including nipple shields that may be helpful when your baby begins to get teeth at 6 plus months.
Warning-Do Not Use Sugar In Any Form or Honey On The Pacifier to encourage your baby to take the pacifier. When their teeth come in they will likely rot
Most infants are not born with teeth. They’ll typically start popping up through the gums around 6 months of age usually beginning with the bottom front teeth. This is when you’ll probably recognize some increase in fussiness, major drooling and a mild fever. Its all part of the normal teething process.
Breast Feeding Your Infant
This is also when a breast feeding mom will begin to have a little bit tougher time with feeding because it’s uncomfortable. With the passage of time most mom’s will tolerate feeding their little darling with new teeth, just fine. While other moms will find it too painful and may resort to a NUK shield.
If you have been in the habit of extended feeding times with your little bundle of joy, an amazing bonding time, you need to know about some of the risks. Extended nursing time fulfills the constant feed-on-demand requests by your baby, keeping him or her happy, and you exhausted. It also increases the extended contact time of milk with your baby’s teeth while they’re snoozing every few minutes.
Extended Feeding Time Might Seem Like A Good Idea-But It’s Not
The extended contact time of your milk on your baby’s teeth can lead to toddler tooth decay. Your baby has already been exposed to your oral bacteria acquiring a profile similar to yours.
If you have cavity producing bacteria in your mouth, so does your baby. It’s normal and there is nothing you can do about it other than caring for yourself fully.
Your breast milk contains milk sugar or lactose which cavity producing bacteria love to feed on. They produce an acid that eats into your baby’s teeth causing cavities. If the time that your baby is feeding is extended so is the time for exposure to milk sugar and for cavities to develop. When feeding is done, it’s done.
How Do I Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Your baby can probably not find anything more comfortable than being cuddled up to you and nursing whenever he chooses. It’s understandable. But for you to bring a healthy infant up to be a healthy toddler, some separation though is necessary. Interrupt the docking maneuver.
This separation from you is for the benefit of your baby and to give a busy mother like you time to get things done. Like sleep and all of the other things on your to-do list. I have recommended several “Baby Wise” books to countless young mom’s [Check out the series: On Becoming Baby WiseBaby Wise-by Gary Ezzo M.A. and Robert Bucknam M.D.].
This separation time allows your baby’s natural saliva to wash milk sugar from their teeth. During your normal daily nighttime baby care, I suggest you also use a baby nap wash cloth moistened with plain water to wipe off all visible teeth. This rubbing action removes residual milk sugar and clumps of bacteria too small to see that are responsible for creating cavities.
Make it a game, make is fun with lots of laughter. If you do, then the introduction of a baby toothbrush will be even easier. I used both on my children with great success.
Bottle Feeding Time Has Arrived-Stay Strong-No Bottle During Sleep
Some mom’s will breast feed each child for years. Others will end it when the rewards are over. Regardless of how long you chose to breast feed when a bottle is introduced the same rules apply including if you pump and store breast milk for later feeding.
All commercial formulas contain sugar and fat as does breast milk. All formulas and milk will cause your baby’s teeth to develop bottle rot if they linger during extended feeding.
If you use a bottle with breast milk or formula to extend feeding times you run the risk of developing baby bottle decay or cavities too. Putting your baby down for a nap or to sleep overnight should never be done with a bottle containing anything beside water. No formula, no breast milk, no juices, no sodas, no sugar of any kind-just water.
If your baby wants a pacifier the same rules apply-no sugar or honey on the pacifier. This may seem obvious, but some parents just don’t know. I have seen parents pour the contents of sugar packets at a restaurant directly onto a toddlers tongue to keep them happy during the meal. They are going to see major cavity issues with their children.
Finally as the sippy cup is added to the daily routine keep in mind the very same thing mentioned before. No formula, no milk, no juices, no sodas, no sugar of any kind-just water. If it only has water in it, it will not be a constant companion for your toddler.
Repairing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Repairing the effects of extended exposure to the sugars in formulas, milk, juices and sweetened water will not be easy on you or your baby. The decay will have to be removed and fillings placed if enough tooth is still left.
If the decay is more extensive, stainless steel crowns will have to be placed. If decay has already reached the nerve of the tooth, the child equivalent of root canal treatment will need to be performed. And finally if there is not enough tooth left due to extreme decay the tooth may need to be removed completely.
I would not wish this on anyone, much less a toddler. Often due to extensive treatment needs, the safest way to perform child treatment is under general anesthesia in a hospital setting. It minimizes the recollection of the experience. It enhances the safety of the procedures in that patient cooperation is not an issue. But it too is not risk free.
Baby bottle tooth decay is avoidable. If you know a young parent, pass this article along to them. If may save them and their child from extensive dental problems. If may save them from $2000 to $6000 or more.
See your holistic dentist early with your new baby. One year old children need to be assessed for cavity potential and parents educated in how to care for them.