When I see a child between the ages of two and four in my dental office with severe decay, it is usually from sleeping with a bottle or sippy cup at night. This is known as baby bottle mouth or baby bottle rot. The sugars from the juice or milk get pushed up against the backside of the upper teeth and will sit there for hours, leaving bacteria plenty of time to create cavities.
You will typically see the earliest signs of baby bottle rot on the tongue side of the upper front teeth. Many parents do not see their dentist until after the decay starts to show between the front two teeth and can be seen in the front. By this point, the decay could be extensive, and your dentist’s ability to save these teeth could be greatly reduced.
On these teeth, you might start seeing darker areas or the tooth starting to break down or chip away.
The pattern of baby bottle rot decay tends to follow a consistent pattern in the mouth. The top front teeth will be the most broken down, then the top back teeth, then the lower back teeth, and many times the lower front teeth are fine because the tongue was protecting them.
If you are worried your child might be developing baby bottle rot, please make sure to see your dentist as soon as possible so that they can evaluate your child’s situation.
At We Care Dental Care, Dr. Burkitt will examine and present the best options to help restore your child's oral health. The longer you wait, the more severe the decay will get. This will limit your dentist’s options to restore these teeth.
When I speak to many parents, they are fully aware of refined sugar like high fructose corn syrup, but they may not realize that there are natural sugars found in juice or milk that can harm teeth.
As a general rule, if you see a word that ends in an “ose” it is sugar; this could include fructose, sucrose, or lactose, which is the natural sugar found in milk.
Even drinks with “no added sugar” can still have a considerable amount of natural sugars that can feed the cavity-causing bacteria in their mouth.
Human breast milk has higher sugar content compared to cow's milk. For example, there are 17 grams of sugar in a cup of human breast milk but only 13 grams of sugar in one cup of 1% cow's milk. That is more than 30% more sugar in human breast milk than the 1% cow’s milk.
If not cleaned off the teeth, this higher sugar content can lead to more decay on your child’s teeth. Also, many children go to sleep after feeding. They will hold a small amount of milk on their tongue and press it against the back of their upper front teeth. This small amount of milk will help feed the cavity-causing bacteria increasing your child's risk of getting cavities.