Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Brooklyn Dentist

All teeth are subject to cavities and tooth decay and that includes baby (primary) teeth. Even though baby teeth eventually fall out and are replaced, unhealthy baby teeth and their premature loss can cause adjacent teeth to shift, leading to impacted adult teeth and lifelong orthodontic issues.

Baby teeth are essential to speech production, correct chewing, proper posturing of the tongue in the mouth, and preparing the mouth for adult teeth. As soon as the first tooth emerges in a child’s mouth, they are at risk for tooth decay.

The primary solution is a “well-baby” checkup with a pediatric dentist around the 12-month mark. Overall, childhood tooth decay can be completely prevented by a committed parent.

How do you define baby bottle tooth decay?

The term “baby bottle tooth decay” refers to caries (cavities) that appear in infants and toddlers. It may affect any of the teeth, but most commonly affects the front teeth and upper jaw.

This condition can progress to the point that a pediatric dentist may not be able to save the affected tooth. If baby teeth are removed, a space maintainer to prevent misalignment of the remaining teeth is provided.

What causes baby bottle tooth decay?

All cavities and decay are caused by acid-producing bacteria in the oral cavity. These bacteria come from food, drinks, and even through the saliva of a child’s mother or father. When parents share spoons with their children or clean their pacifiers with their mouths, parental bacteria invade the child’s mouth.

Sweetened liquids, however, are the most prominent cause of baby bottle tooth decay, hence the condition's name. Most fluids a parent may fill a baby bottle with, including juice, sweetened water, baby formula, and even breast milk contain sugar that can lead to cavities.

This is especially true when children are allowed to go to bed or naptime with a sweet drink. If sugary liquids are left to sit in the mouth for an extended period, it makes it easier for bacteria to feed on the sugars around the teeth and emit harmful acids that wear away tooth enamel and cause cavities.

A lack of fluoride will also lead to baby bottle tooth decay. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, reduces mineral loss, and promotes mineral reuptake. Figuring out the correct amount of fluoride for your child can be difficult, as too much can be just as harmful as too little. A pediatric dentist can determine the proper fluoride usage for your child through a series of examinations and questionnaires.

How can I prevent baby bottle tooth decay at home?

There is no reason your child shouldn’t have a beautiful, bright, healthy smile. Childhood tooth decay is easily preventable if you use these tips:

  • Limit bacteria transmission via saliva exchange by rinsing pacifiers with clean water and using a different spoon for each person when eating.

  • Clean the child’s mouth and gums after eating with a clean washcloth.

  • Do not fill baby bottles or sippy cups with sugary drinks. Use these containers for essential liquids like breast milk, formula, or water.

  • Do not let your child take sugary liquids to bed. If they insist on a drink, give them water.

  • Encourage your child to use a regular cup once they reach the age of 12 months.

  • Do not dip pacifiers in sweet liquids like honey.

  • Clean the child’s teeth until they reach the age of seven. Younger children have trouble reaching certain places in the mouth.

  • Use a pea-sized amount of ADA-approved toothpaste to brush your child’s teeth. Fluoride-free toothpaste is best for children under two.

  • Use a pea-sized amount of ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste once the child has learned to spit out excess toothpaste. Excessive fluoride intake can lead to fluorosis.

  • Talk to your child’s pediatric dentist about proper fluoride levels.

If you have questions or concerns about baby bottle tooth decay, or if you would like to set up an appointment with us, please contact Brooklyn Dentist.


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