Maintenance of optimum health of milk teeth is essential for the future growth and development of permanent teeth and surrounding oral structures. In other words, baby teeth or milk teeth make the foundation of future permanent dentition of human beings. Early loss of milk teeth owing to dental decay, trauma, accidents, blow or advanced disease conditions can result in loss of space between surviving adjacent teeth, over-eruption of opposing teeth and drifting of adjacent teeth leading to pathologic tooth migration. These adverse manifestations due to premature tooth loss can lead to impairment of structure, function, speech and aesthetics. Children suffer from physical and social trauma in early age which leaves its impact throughout their lives. They tend to lose confidence and motivation in their studies and work. Prevention of early tooth decay is extremely important for the normal growth and development of infants and small children.
Early childhood caries or baby bottle caries is characterized by occurrence of rapid tooth decay in early life of an infant leading to loss of teeth. It occurs most commonly in front teeth which are exposed to synthetic sugars and artificial sweeteners mixed with milk in baby bottles and dinky feeding containers. Mothers tend to put these feeding bottles in their child’s mouth in order to keep them busy and stop from crying. Keeping these sweetened feeding bottles in the mouth especially at night during sleep hours provides a continuous source of refined carbohydrates which acts as a niche for microorganisms responsible for tooth decay. These sugars are metabolized to produce acids which further lower the PH levels and make the environment favorable for the growth of harmful bacteria. Mother education by dental health care professionals regarding the risk factors for baby bottle caries should be part of the overall oral health care and dental caries prevention plan.
Baby bottle tooth decay is a common problem and occurs when a baby’s teeth are in frequent contact with sugars from drinks, such as fruit juices, milk, formula, or any other sweet drink. Even breastfed infants that fall asleep with unswallowed milk in their mouth are at risk for tooth decay. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugars, causing tooth decay.
If left untreated, decayed teeth can cause pain and make it difficult to chew and eat. Also, baby teeth serve as space savers for adult teeth. If baby teeth are damaged or destroyed, they can’t help guide permanent teeth into their proper position, possibly resulting in crowded or crooked permanent teeth. Badly decayed baby teeth could lead to an abscessed tooth, with the possibility of infection spreading elsewhere in the body.