Baby bottle tooth decay is also known as "early childhood caries", a common problem among children under the age of five that can be avoided through awareness and prevention. If your child begins to show symptoms, your dentist can provide treatment for baby bottle tooth decay. The type of treatment depends on the severity of the decay. As with most health issues, the earlier the problem is addressed, the less extensive and invasive the treatment will likely be.
Treatment for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Treatment varies based on your child's age and the severity of the condition. At the earliest signs of a problem, you and your child's dentist can work together to formulate an approach to management and treatment.
White spots on a tooth's surface are allegedly early symptoms of baby bottle tooth decay. At this stage, fluoride treatment or placing fluoride varnish can be used to remineralise all of the teeth. This treatment actually reverses decay in its earliest stages by helping to rebuild the surface enamel. Your child's dentist might also recommend fluoride supplements. At this stage, you can also make changes to your baby's diet to keep decay from progressing. These changes could include:
- Limiting acidic foods
- Limiting juices, especially citrus juices
- Substituting water for juice, formula or milk in your child's bottle
These changes should always be made in coordination with your child's pediatrician and/or pediatric dentist. Depending on your child's age, overall health and nutritional needs, some dietary changes could be undesirable.
If decay is spotted at later stages, fluoride treatments will no longer be sufficient. Symptoms of more severe decay include:
- Brown or black spots on the teeth
- Bleeding or swollen gums
- Fever, swelling or irritability, which could indicate infection
- Bad breath
If your child shows any of these symptoms, it's imperative to see a dentist as soon as possible. If decay spreads, your child could face extensive restoration treatments and even tooth loss.
If Your Child's Tooth Decay Is Severe
Treatment for baby bottle tooth decay is much the same as for adult tooth decay. The stainless steel crowns are often used because they are durable and less likely to require follow-up treatments or replacement. Your dentist might suggest sedation or even general anaesthesia for extensive restoration work, depending on your child's age and maturity level. In very severe cases, teeth might even need to be extracted. This is more likely to be necessary if the tooth is infected or has decayed so extensively that it cannot be restored.
The Importance of Treatment for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
It's a common misconception that the premature loss of baby teeth isn't a problem. After all, these teeth are going to fall out anyway, so why worry if they fall out earlier than scheduled? In fact, there are many reasons to be concerned about the premature loss of baby teeth.
The permanent teeth — which will serve your child into adulthood — are present in the jawbone from your baby's early years. The baby teeth act as a placeholder for the permanent teeth. If they are lost prematurely, the spacing of the permanent teeth can be affected. Premature loss of baby teeth can lead to misaligned permanent teeth along with other issues that could require extensive orthodontic treatment.
Tooth loss can also make it difficult for your child to eat a healthy, nutritious diet. In addition, it can affect his or her ability to speak properly. Proper diction requires the presence of front teeth, so premature tooth loss could lead to a need for future speech therapy.
Bad hygiene habits could follow your child into adolescence and adulthood. The best way to ensure ongoing dental health as your child matures is to be sure that he or she learns good oral hygiene from the beginning. Baby toothbrushes and toothpaste can help you introduce your child to regular toothbrushing.
The best approach to baby bottle tooth decay is prevention. If your child does experience early childhood dental caries, you and your child's dentist can work together to determine the best treatment options.