Baby bottle tooth decay is the term that describes tooth decay in infants
and young children. It may also be called:
childhood caries (ECC)
Baby bottle tooth
decay usually occurs on the front teeth, or ‘incisors’. Cavities, or “caries,”
are caused by too much sugar on the teeth. The sugar is found in milk or
formula, as well as other artificially sweetened juice and snacks.
As a parent, you
hold the keys needed to help prevent infant caries. Proper dental hygiene and
cleanings are essential. Learn how to keep your baby’s teeth clean and free of
cavities in their early years, as well as how to teach self-care techniques as
your child grows older.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Bottle tooth decay develops
when baby teeth come into frequent contact with too much sugar. Bacteria in the
mouth feed on the sugar, multiply, and produce acid as a waste product. The
acid attacks the teeth and tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.
Sugar is found in:
When an infant falls
asleep with a bottle, or uses a bottle or sippy cup for extended periods of
time, the sugar can coat the teeth. This causes the teeth to decay more quickly
in such children.
What Are the Signs
of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
The caries caused
by decay can occur in any of the teeth. However, they most often occur on the
upper front teeth (called ‘upper incisors’). Caries can appear as dark or brown
spots on the teeth. As the decay worsens, children might experience pain and
swelling around the teeth.
Complications of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Infant caries can
be a serious problem. A child needs their teeth to chew, speak, and smile. Baby
teeth also hold the space for adult teeth. Pain and infection will likely
result if a tooth is lost too early or if tooth decay is left untreated.
In addition, if the
baby teeth don’t develop properly, your baby may develop poor eating habits or have
speech problems. Adult teeth may grow in crookedly or cause crowding.
severe tooth decay can cause further complications, including:
- chronic pain
- pain or
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Be Prevented?
It’s possible to
prevent infant caries by being conscious of your child’s bottle-feeding habits and
properly cleaning your child’s teeth.
Bottle Feeding Tips
- Don’t put
your child to sleep with a bottle of juice or milk. The sugar in the liquid
will remain on your infant’s teeth for hours.
- If you
must give your child a bottle, fill it with water. Some pediatricians recommend
against giving a bottle in the crib at all, while others say that children must
first be able to sit up on their own.
- Don’t let
your child walk around with a bottle of juice or milk dangling from the mouth.
filling bottles with sugar water, soft drinks, or juices.
- Teach your
child how to drink from a cup around 6 months of age. The American Dental
Association (ADA) recommends switching to a cup by your child’s first birthday.
prolonged pacifier use. Never dip a pacifier in honey or syrup. Never give honey to a baby under 12 months of age for any reason.
- Limit the
amount of juice you give your child. The American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends no more than 6 ounces per day for young children. Babies
under 6 months should not drink juice at all.
healthy eating habits, and limit sweets in general.
- Wipe your
infant’s gums after a feeding. Use a cloth to remove food bits or plaque.
brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they grow in.
- Have the
whole family brush teeth together at bedtime.
- When your
child is old enough not to swallow it, use fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride
helps the teeth resist acid. Note: Fluoride
can be dangerous if swallowed, so monitor your child until they get the hang of
- Floss your
child’s teeth after all of them have grown in.
- Have a
dentist inspect your child’s teeth regularly.
sharing utensils and other items that come in contact with your child’s teeth
to avoid passing your saliva to your baby’s mouth. Such habits can promote
Outlook: How a Pediatric Dentist
Oral health habits
are first started at home. As your infant grows, it’s time to consider other
preventive measures with the help of a pediatric dentist. Your child’s first
dentist’s visit should occur within six months after the first tooth appears. In
fact, the ADA recommends that children should see a dentist before their first
A pediatric dentist
can detect potential problems with your child’s teeth, including caries. This
is why regular appointments are a must. Always call your child’s dentist if you
have any specific concerns.