Uncle Larry May Not Be the Only One With a Bottle Problem
I usually recommend parents start bringing in their children at the age of 1. By this age most kids only have about four or six teeth in total. So then why should they come see me? Well the appointment is just as much for the parents as it is for the child. I use the appointment to help parents develop good hygiene habits and to educate them on how to prevent dental disease. The sad thing is that parents are usually the ones that cause most of the issues that young children face. The number one issue affecting children from the ages of 1 to 3 is what’s called “baby bottle decay”.
Most parents will continue to feed their children a baby bottle after their teeth have erupted. The problem with this is that the baby bottle is usually filled with milk or juice. While the child may enjoy this, there’s someone who likes this even more: the bacteria that are naturally found on the baby’s teeth. The bacteria eat the sugars found in the milk or juice and release lactic acid. This is the acid that causes cavities. During the day this is not too big of an issue since the saliva in our mouth clears away most of the sugars and bacteria. However, at night our body naturally produces less saliva. So when a child is given a baby bottle overnight it generally leads to them developing cavities. While the bottle may be saving your ears and keeping the child from crying, know that it is also causing damage to their teeth. This is typically the number one reason children 3 or younger get cavities. The worst part is that it's very difficult to work on children at this age so once they do get the cavities it will be a challenging ordeal to get them fixed. Being a big believer in preventing a problem, rather than fixing it after it becomes a problem, I cant stress how important it is to eliminate baby bottle decay
Another downside to the baby bottle is the potential to cause malocclusion. Sucking on the baby bottle (as well as fingers, pacifiers, and toys) can cause forming teeth to be pushed into a position they were not meant to be. In extreme cases it can even change the way the palate forms and lead to breathing and speaking problems. These problems can also be very difficult to correct and will most definitely cost lots of money, time, and stress to fix.
How Can My Child Kick The Habit?
The number one objection I get from parents is “doc my child wont sleep without the bottle”. While eliminating the bottle overnight is the best solution I also tell patients there’s an alternative. Filling the bottle with water instead of milk or juice is a great 2nd best. I advise slowly weaning the child off of whatever they are used to drinking. So say a child is used to drinking milk. Feed the child half milk half water for a few days. Then go a quarter milk and quarter water for a few more days and then switch to all water. A child should drink nothing but water overnight. Following this simple rule will help save your child’s teeth. Imagine how many cavities and traumatic experiences we could prevent if just this little piece of information was shared with all parents. So please share this with others and lets help reduce the number of children that suffer from baby bottle decay.