- Written by by Queen Munguti for Kenyakidz
Kenyan parents/guardians should avoid putting their children to sleep with a baby bottle because it can cause tooth decay.
“This happens when sweetened liquids or those with natural sugars (like milk, formula, and fruit juice) stay on teeth for a long time,” said Dr. Bahra of Lotus Dental Practice in Syokimau. “Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth thus causing decay.”
The tooth decay in babies usually happens in the upper front teeth but because they are temporary (milk teeth) most parents do not consider them important.
However Dr Bahra said they are not just important but necessary. “They are critical for chewing; speaking, smiling and most importantly, they serve as space holders for the adult teeth.”
Once a parent notices that their baby has tooth decay, they should take them to the dentist immediately because if baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, pain and infection can result.
“Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed. If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, a child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, misaligned teeth , and damaged adult teeth. In addition, the chances that adult teeth will end up being misaligned are greatly increased,” she said.
Dr Bahra said the best way to prevent baby tooth decay is by; wiping the baby's gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding, begin brushing their teeth without toothpaste when the first tooth comes in but if one chooses to use toothpaste, use a fluoride-free one.
“Parents should also clean and massage gums in areas without teeth, make sure their child is getting
enough fluoride which helps lessen cavities. Our local water supply does contain fluoride, so a need to use a supplement is not very necessary.
“They should also schedule regular dental visits by their child's first birthday. At the dentist’s office, they ask for a special sealant coating, which can help prevent tooth decay.”
But other than tooth decay, letting the baby sleep with a baby bottle can also cause ear infections. According to US pediatrician Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, the fluid in the bottle and the germs in the baby’s mouth can drain its Eustachian tubes at the back of the throat, which lead to her middle ear.
“The infections are more likely to result from milk or juice in the bottle, since they are a sugary breeding ground for germs, water in the bottle can also carry germs to the middle ears. Another concern about giving your baby a bottle of water for bed is that she could choke on the water.”