Most of us are reluctant to believe that dental problems are serious when it comes to primary teeth, otherwise known as “milk teeth”. As these teeth have a shorter lifespan compared to permanent teeth, people most often think the need for treating these milk teeth is unnecessary. However, their lifespan isn’t as short and unimportant as it is believed to be. Nursing Bottle caries is an example of an oral disease caused primarily due to negligence toward milk teeth.
The first milk tooth erupts in the oral cavity around 6 months of age and all these milk teeth stay till 11 years of age approximately. That sure isn’t a short time considering the fact that these are paramount years of overall growth and development of an individual. The need for these milk teeth to be healthy and vital until the entire permanent dentition has erupted is unavoidable.
If we ask the general population whether they think that tooth decay would occur in a baby’s mouth that only feeds on its mother’s milk or certain liquids, many would answer with a “no”. However, the reality is different. Let’s take a look at this particular type of tooth decay in detail.
What is Nursing Bottle Caries?
Nursing Bottle caries is a type of childhood caries or tooth decay observed in the front teeth of kids usually 2-6 years. As the name suggests, it occurs when a child goes to sleep with a nursing bottle in their mouth containing any feeding liquid except water. It is also called ‘Baby Bottle Feeding’ caries. It is the most prevalent type of early childhood caries.
How Does it Occur?
As mentioned above, when an infant or kid is put to sleep with a nursing bottle in its mouth containing milk or any other forms of liquid food except water, the deposits from the food are accumulated on the teeth surface causing microbial action and forming decay.
How can Nursing Bottle Caries be Detected?
- You may observe white spots on the front teeth that are lighter than the tooth colour in the initial stage.
- At a later stage, black spots or broken tooth surfaces can be observed.
- The child may also complain of pain when consuming cold or sweet foods.
What does the Treatment for it entail?
Whether you were too quick to observe the white spots or have noticed the black tooth decay or pits like in adults at a later stage, it is best to visit a Pediatric dentist at the earliest. Treatment will be planned according to the stage of the decay development. Initial stages can be treated with fluoride application whereas, later stages might involve dental procedures like dental fillings, tooth removal, root canal treatment, etc, as needed.
How can Nursing Bottle Caries be Prevented?
As we all know, prevention is always better than cure.
- Nursing bottle caries can be prevented by avoiding letting the infant or kid sleep with a milk bottle in the mouth.
- Before the child is put to sleep, rinsing the mouth by feeding water can be helpful.
- The child should slowly whine away from the bottle habit.
- Adopting the habit of brushing teeth before sleeping for kids with erupted teeth and cleaning the gum pads of the infants with a soft, wet gauze before being put to sleep is beneficial.
- Take action as soon as you notice any white spots or different appearance of the teeth.
- Fluoride application should be done as advised by the dentist.
- Proper pediatric brushing habits should be taught to children.
- Visiting the dentist regularly for checkups is crucial.
Can Nursing Bottle Caries be Reversed if action is taken in the Early Stages?
YES! it can be reversed in the very initial stages with fluoride application.
Treating your child’s milk teeth will help them gain better nutrition for their overall growth. Not only do the affected milk teeth cause pain and disturbance to the child but also might hamper the newly forming permanent teeth if the infection penetrates below.
Therefore, by ignoring early childhood tooth problems, you are eventually letting a chance for adult tooth problems in your children. If childhood tooth problems are taken care of, it also instils good oral habits in the children leading them to become hygienic and good adults while realizing the importance of their teeth in their life.
In summary, do not ignore milk teeth. We should try to prevent the disease rather than focusing on curing it because, as John Robert Colombo said, ” A milligram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure.”