Baby Bottle Caries
Early Tooth Decay
Tooth decay in infants and very young children is often referred to as baby bottle decay. Baby bottle tooth decay happens when sweetened liquids or those with natural sugars (like milk, formula, and fruit juice) cling to an infant’s teeth for a long time. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth.
At risk are children whose pacifiers are frequently dipped in sugar or syrup. Giving an infant a sugary drink at nap time or nighttime is particularly harmful because the flow of saliva decreases during sleep. Baby teeth are necessary for chewing, speaking, and smiling. They also serve as placeholders for the adult teeth. If baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, pain and infection can result. Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed.
If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth, and damaged adult teeth. In addition, the chances that adult teeth will end up being crooked are greatly increased. Baby bottle caries can be prevented by taking the following measures:
- Wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- Begin brushing your child’s teeth, without toothpaste, when his or her first tooth comes in.
- Schedule regular dental visits by your child’s first birthday. Dentists also offer special sealant coatings, which can help prevent tooth decay in children.
- Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water and never give your child a pacifier dipped in anything sweet.