There are moments when parents may compromise just about anything to get your baby to sleep. Nursing and bottle feeding are very often used as a comforting methods. Your little bundle of joy becomes instantly quieted and soon falls to sleep. What does feeding baby to sleep mean for teeth? Should you break those bedtime habits once your baby develops teeth? Furthermore, how can you prevent your baby from developing baby bottle tooth decay?
There is little evidence supporting that breast milk alone increases the risks of tooth decay in babies. Actually, some studies suggest the lactoferrin found in breast milk may aid in fighting the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Breast milk does not lower the pH of the mouth like many other liquids do. A lower oral pH environment can encourage bacteria growth.
With this knowledge, there is really no rush to wean your baby from bedtime feeding at the first sign of tooth eruption. It could be way too early considering tooth eruption can occur as early as 3 months of age. Breast milk does contain sugars and so does baby formula which can cause a more acidic environment. When your baby’s teeth are coated with sugary liquids for long periods of time, there is an increased risk for tooth decay. This is more prevalent with sugary drinks once your baby begins to wean and change eating habits. Drinking sugary drinks from a bottle at bedtime significantly increases the risk of decay.
Baby bottle tooth decay can have some serious consequences, such as crowns and even tooth extractions in severe cases. Primary baby teeth are very important for the proper development of your child’s permanent teeth and jaw. Proper care for your baby’s teeth from birth can help prevent other dental problems including misalignment of a their bite, malformed permanent teeth and painful infections.
Tips to Avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay:
- Try keeping your baby from falling asleep with milk that has not been swallowed.
- Remove the bottle once your baby falls asleep.
- Don’t put juice or other sugary drinks in their bottle. Stick to breast milk, formula and water until they are able to drink from a cup.
- Once your baby’s teeth start coming in, limit the potential for bacteria transmission by not sharing cups, spoons, etc.
Start your baby off with proper oral hygiene right from the beginning!