Early Dental Exams For Children Can Avert Problems Posed By Bottled Water And "Bottle Caries"

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 26, 1999) -- Well-meaning parents may be unwittingly contributing to their young children's dental problems, according to Denis Weintraub, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist, orthodontist and dental anesthesiologist who is co-director, Hospital Dentistry, Ambulatory Care Center Dental Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Many of these problems could be easily avoided with early check-ups -- 12 months old is the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommendation -- that include examination and education on proper dental care.

One of a number of concerns is the trend of giving babies "designer" bottled water, which may be popular with health-conscious parents but potentially harmful for baby. Bottled water contains no fluoride, which is essential in preventing tooth decay. The result is an increased susceptibility to cavities, said Dr. Weintraub.

"Many people mistakenly think that the water coming out of the tap is 'poisonous,' " he explained. "In reality, tap water contains a critical component -- fluoride -- that is necessary for tooth health. New laws now ensure that there is an optimal amount of fluoride in California tap water."

Another concern is decay of the front teeth caused by long periods "on the bottle." Called "bottle caries," these cavities often goes unrecognized until there is significant damage to the teeth. The problem arises when liquids -- formula, milk, juice and even breast milk -- "pool" between the back of the front teeth and the tongue, particularly in sleeping children.

"The high sugar content of these liquids attacks the teeth, though parents typically don't see the damage because it's behind the teeth," said Dr. Weintraub. "I have people coming to my office thinking their child must have bitten on something because their tooth shattered. What actually happened is that decay made the tooth so brittle that it broke off."

This condition may require capping of the front teeth -- a procedure that Dr. Weintra

Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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