Did you know that your child's dental wellness starts before they even have teeth? While their gummy grins may not require brushing just yet, their bottle and pacifier habits can wreak havoc on their smiles later in life. These tools are not bad in and of themselves, but when used in excess and improperly, they can cause problems for years to come.
Bottle mouth, also known as baby bottle tooth decay, is primarily the result of using a bottle or breastfeeding to sooth a baby to sleep. Juice, formula, and breast milk all contain sugars that can cause widespread decay when left to sit in the mouth. Bottle mouth can also be a problem if you encourage your child to take a pacifier by dipping it in honey, corn syrup, or other sweet substances.
Preventing Bottle Mouth
The easiest way to prevent bottle mouth is to not put your child to sleep with a bottle. If a bottle is necessary to sooth them to sleep, it should only be filled with water. Wipe your child's gums or teeth with wet cloth or brush their emerging teeth when they do partake of sugary beverages. You child should also be weaned from their bottle and using a sippy cup by their first birthday.
While the front teeth are often those most severely affected, the back teeth are usually the first to show signs of decay. Taking your child to see a dentist shortly after their first tooth emerges in the best way to prevent this disease or to catch it early.
Treating Bottle Mouth
Early detection means that your child's teeth can be treated with fluoride and a few changes in habit. If the damage has breached the enamel but not yet made it to the tooth's pulp, the entire tooth will be encased in and protected by a stainless steel crown. As a last resort, if the decay has reached the tooth's pulp, then the tooth will be pulled. While it eliminates the decay, this early tooth loss can affect your child's ability to eat and speak normally.
Problems Caused By Pacifiers
Thumb sucking and pacifier use can be very soothing for young children, but they can also narrow the roof of your child's mouth and cause jaw alignment problems. These sucking habits have also been known to cause the teeth to tilt and slant in unnatural directions.
Preventing Pacifier-Caused Problems
Dental professionals prefer pacifier use to thumb sucking, because it is easier to wean a child off of a binky when they reach the age of one. Allowing your child to use a pacifier past the age of two increases their chance of developing structural abnormalities. During the first year, your child should only use the pacifier when necessary, such as for soothing during nap time.
The development of structural abnormalities can also be prevented by using the correct kind of pacifier. The binky should be constructed in one piece—the parts on multi-component pacifiers can come loose, causing the child to suck on it at an abnormal angle. You should also purchase orthodontic pacifiers for your child. These pacifiers have nipples that are round on the top and flat on the bottom, supporting the natural shape of the mouth.
Treating Pacifier-Related Problems
Typically, if thumb sucking or pacifier use is stopped early the mouth will naturally reverse any structural damage caused. If these behaviors continue until your child's permanent teeth start growing in, then the problems are more likely to be permanent. The damage caused by thumb sucking and excessive pacifier use will typically be corrected later in your child's life with braces and other orthodontic treatment.
For more information, check out the sites of local dentists, or contact them in person.