Even though they are temporary, your child’s baby teeth are
important, and are still susceptible to cavities. Tooth decay in infants and
toddlers is often referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, or Early Childhood
Caries. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak, and have
a good-looking smile. Their first teeth also help make sure their adult teeth
come in correctly. It’s important to start infants off with good oral care to
help protect their teeth for decades to come. What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay most often occurs in the upper front
teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.
There are many factors which can cause tooth decay. One
common cause is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks
that contain sugar (this includes milk). Tooth decay can occur when the baby is
put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy
baby. Dr. Dan recommends that babies stop using a bottle at 12 months of age.
After brushing at night, water is fine if thirsty. Tooth decay is a disease
that can begin with cavity-causing bacteria being 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.
If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate
amount of fluoride, they may also have an increased risk for tooth decay. The
good news is that decay is preventable. 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. Dental decay is a
disease; children catch the bacteria from someone else.
- When your child’s teeth come in, brush them
gently with a child-size toothbrush and a smear (or grain of rice-sized amount)
of fluoride toothpaste until the age of 3.
- Brush the teeth with a pea-sized amount of
fluoride toothpaste from the ages of 3 to 6.
- Supervise brushing until your child can be
counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste – usually not before 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
- Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime
bottles, and brush their teeth, 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; parents tend to
go way over serving sizes of drinks that contain sugar, which have other health
risks for the child’s future.
When your child’s first tooth appears, talk to your dentist
about scheduling the first dental visit. Treat the first dental visit as you
would a well-baby checkup with the child’s physician. Remember: starting early
is the key to a lifetime of good dental health. For more information about
nutrition and your baby, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics