Early childhood caries (also known as baby bottle tooth decay or bottle rot) is a type of cavity that attacks the baby teeth, resulting in tooth loss. Premature loss of these teeth can lead to problems with nutrition and speech, among others.
Early childhood caries appears around age three or four, and progresses quickly; teeth that are just starting to grow in can rapidly become decayed. It is caused when children consume sugary drinks (juice, sweetened milk, etc.) from a bottle. When children fall asleep with a bottle or drink from it for a long period of time, their teeth are bathed in the sugary liquid long enough to cause tooth decay. Even unsweetened milk creates deposits on the teeth that, associated with the bacteria in plaque, can cause cavities to form.
Therefore, children should never be allowed to fall asleep with a bottle. After your baby is finished drinking (from a bottle or even the breast), clean the mouth and gums with a wet facecloth; a soft toothbrush can be used when the child is older.
Moreover, as soon as you feel your child is ready, teach the basics of oral hygiene. Turn it into a game; children love to imitate their parents. There are smartphone apps to help encourage children to take care of their teeth.
NOTE FROM THE DENTIST: Watch for any changes in the colour or texture of your child’s teeth. If you think something is amiss, do not hesitate to speak to your dentist, who will be able to reassure you and even schedule an appointment to better assess the situation.
Article written in collaboration with Julie Plamondon, dental surgeon at Centres dentaires Lapointe, and Chantal Guinta, training director at Centres dentaires Lapointe.