Your child’s baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear but the good news is that baby bottle tooth decay is preventable. There are many factors that can cause tooth decay. One common cause is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar.
When a baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby, tooth decay can occur. Milk should be served only with meals and not offered throughout the day, at nap time or at bedtime. Although extended and frequent breastfeeding alone does not cause tooth decay, all breastfeeding mothers should be aware of and follow oral hygiene, fluoride, preventive dental care, and healthy diet recommendations.
Cavity-causing bacteria can also be passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria can be passed to the baby.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected. It can first appear as white spots at the gum line on the upper front teeth. These spots are hard to see at first—even for a child’s doctor or dentist—without proper equipment. A child with tooth decay needs to be examined and treated early to stop the decay from spreading and to prevent further damage.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Try not to share saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers. After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.
- Supervise or assist with brushing— typically until he or she is 6 or 7.
- Place only formula, milk or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- Infants should finish their bedtime and nap time bottles before going to bed.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean—don’t dip it in sugar or honey.
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.
- Encourage healthy eating habits.
Call us to schedule your child’s first dental visit 6 months after the first tooth erupts (or around age 1). Treat the first dental visit as you would a well-baby checkup with the child’s physician. And remember, children under the age of 18 months are complimentary at Kids Teeth.