Baby bottle tooth decay

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Your baby cries throughout the night. No matter what you do, the only thing that soothes them to sleep is a bottle of apple juice.

You think, "Thank goodness! I've found the answer to allow sleep in our house and it's healthy!"

Unfortunately, starting down this road can cause significant problems in just a few short months.

February is Children's Dental Health Month and this week's topic is early childhood cavities, also known as "baby bottle tooth decay."

Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by frequent and long exposure of an infant's teeth to liquids that contain sugar.

This decay can be caused by milk, formula, or other sweetened drinks.

The liquid lies in the baby's mouth and pools around the teeth, giving cavity-causing bacteria just the right environment to cause rapid decay. The decay can be so severe and painful that many of the teeth have to be crowned or even removed to avoid infections.

Since affected children typically are younger than two-years old, dental treatment may be required in an operating room setting with general anesthesia, adding additional risk to procedures.

To prevent your child from developing baby bottle tooth decay, follow these guidelines:

· Before teething begins, clean the baby's gums after feedings and before bedtime, using a damp washcloth. Once teething begins, you can use a soft bristled toothbrush moistened with water but no toothpaste.
· Never put your baby to bed with a bottle. If you must, give them a bottle of water. If they are already using a sugary drink, try diluting it slowly with water over the next two weeks until it is only water.
· If your baby uses a pacifier, do not coat it or dip it in anything containing sugar, such as honey or syrup.
· Encourage only drinking milk or water during the day.

Using these easy tips will ensure your baby's teeth have a great chance to stay healthy ... at least until adolescence, but that is another article for another time.

To enroll your child in the TRICARE Dental Program, call 1-855-638-8371 or visit www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/Dental/TDP.aspx