Also known as early childhood caries, baby bottle tooth decay refers to tooth decay in infants and toddlers. Your child needs strong, healthy primary teeth to chew food properly and learn to speak, so preventing baby bottle tooth decay is very important.
The causes of tooth decay in children
There are many risk factors when it comes to children’s tooth decay. A common cause is the frequent and prolonged exposure of your child’s teeth to sugary drinks, including milk, formula, and fruit juice.
Giving your toddler a sugary drink at naptime or night can be especially harmful, because the flow of saliva decreases during sleep. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar and produce acids that attack the teeth.
Tooth decay can also be caused by bacteria passed from you to your baby through saliva by sharing spoons, testing foods before feeding them to your baby, and cleaning off a pacifier in your mouth instead of with water.
These germs can start the process that causes cavities even before your baby’s primary teeth emerge, so it’s important to avoid sharing saliva with your baby from the start.
If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride internally through water, especially if he or she drinks bottled water, there can also be an increased risk for tooth decay. Your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements to help prevent tooth decay.
Tooth decay prevention
The good news about baby bottle tooth decay is that it’s preventable!
- Wipe your baby's gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- Begin brushing your child's teeth, without toothpaste, when the first tooth comes in.
- Clean and massage gums in areas without teeth.
- Place only formula, milk, or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling a bottle with liquids like sugar water, juice, or soft drinks.
- Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle that contains anything but water.
- Never dip a pacifier in anything sweet, like sugar water or honey.
- Schedule an appointment with your pediatric dentist by your child’s first birthday or when the first teeth begin to emerge.
Remember, healthy little smiles grow up to be healthy big smiles!