A healthy mouth will ensure your child can speak, eat, and smile with confidence later in life. Although
baby teeth are only temporary, a long-term outlook toward dental care is still essential to setting your
child up for success. Baby teeth are still just as susceptible to decay as adult teeth, and one of the most
common ways that babies experience tooth decay is from baby bottles, sippy cups and straw cups.
Sometimes called bottle rot, it’s important to know its causes and how to avoid them with the help of our pediatric dentist.
What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Bottle rot occurs when your baby drinks sugary liquids like milk or formula throughout the day frequently.
This process encourages the growth of harmful bacteria and acid on the teeth, which wear away at the enamel and lead to decay. Over time, this consistent exposure can cause cavities and even more serious dental pain and infections. Many babies don’t show symptoms at first but if not treated early, it can lead to discomfort and more serious damage to the teeth.
What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Consistent exposure to sugary drinks causes tooth decay, but there are a few culprits that are specific to
babies. They include:
- Falling asleep with a bottle in their mouth
- Consuming sugary drinks, milk, or breast milk before sleeping without cleaning the teeth and mouth afterwards
- Frequent feeding otherwise known as “grazing” throughout the day
- Sharing utensils
- Constant and/or long-term pacifier use
These things promote bacterial growth and without proper oral care, it can lead to decay later on.
How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
There are four ways to prevent exposure to bacteria and prevent further damage.
1. Keep up on AAP guidelines for cleaning
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that for babies under 12 months old, you gently wipe
the gums clean with a soft washcloth. Once the first tooth emerges, use a soft baby toothbrush and a
tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste to gently brush. For children 1-3 years old, use a soft bristle
toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, gently brushing their teeth twice daily for at least two minutes. The
best times to brush are before bed and after breakfast.
2. Only put formula or milk in baby bottles
Giving your baby drinks that are high in sugar content can put them at further risk for tooth decay. Avoid
sugar water, juice, Pediasure or soft drinks. Stick to formula, milk, or water in their bottles.
3. Don’t let them fall asleep with a bottle
Although it may help them sleep, using a bottle as a pacifier can expose your baby’s teeth to sugar and bacteria while they sleep. If you must give them a bottle to sleep with, clean it thoroughly and put water in it instead.
4. Visit a pediatric dentist regularly
Your baby’s pediatric dentist can help keep an eye on any tooth decay and help you learn the best ways
to keep your child’s oral health in good shape. Make sure to schedule your child for regular checkups
and follow your pediatric dentist’s recommendations.
Schedule an Appointment
The best way to ensure your child keeps their teeth healthy is by partnering with Sprout Kids Dentistry.
To get started, contact our Quincy, MA office by calling or filling out our online form.
Dr. Michelle Anderson is a pediatric dentist board certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.