Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Contrary to popular belief, babies and toddlers can experience tooth decay, even if their diet is relatively confined to milk or baby food. It’s called baby bottle tooth decay, and it’s what happens when the natural sugar in liquids such as milk, infant formula, and fruit juice adheres to an infant’s teeth for long periods. Oral bacteria feed upon this sugar, which then creates an acid by-product that wears away at the teeth’s enamel. This mechanism eventually causes tooth decay and cavities, usually on the upper front teeth. 

As a parent, you need to make sure that your infant or toddler does not suffer from baby bottle tooth decay. After all, this condition can result in the following:

  • Swelling and pain
  • Infected teeth or gums
  • Crooked milk and adult teeth
  • Poor eating habits
  • Speech problems

That being said, it’s quite easy to prevent baby bottle tooth decay. Besides taking your infant or toddler to your trusted dentist for checkup and treatment, you can take the simple tips below into consideration.

Never share utensils with your child

Refrain from sharing utensils with your child to avoid introducing your saliva to his/her mouth. Your saliva has its own bacterial flora, which can eventually cause tooth decay when these cavity-causing microorganisms are consistently introduced to your infant’s oral environment.

Clean your child’s gums, even if the teeth are yet to break out

Use a sanitary gauze pad or washcloth to clean your baby’s gums after each feeding. Remember not to use too much force as this could bruise their delicate gum tissue.

Brush your child’s teeth as soon as they begin to appear

When your infant’s teeth begin to sprout, begin brushing it gently with a toothbrush that’s appropriately sized for their age. Use a very small amount of toothpaste when doing so—a small smear or a rice grain-sized amount should be enough.

Avoid giving your child sugary beverages

Only fill your baby’s feeding bottles with formula, milk, or water. Do not fill them with very sugary liquids such as fruit juices or soda beverages. This helps limit your child’s intake of sugary liquids as well as prevent any leftover sugar from contaminating your infant’s milk or formula. Remember that sugar is the favorite food of oral bacteria.

Feed your child well before it’s time for them to sleep

Never allow your infant to fall asleep with their bottle still in their mouth. Ideally, feedings should be done well before bed, allowing you time to clean their teeth and gums before they sleep.

Clean pacifiers before use

Should your child require the use of a pacifier, ensure that it is always clean before use. Refrain from dipping it in sugar or honey.

Make sure your child is getting some fluoride

Ensure that your child is getting enough fluoride by allowing them to drink some filtered tap water. 

Floss your child’s teeth when they start to fit closely together

Floss your child’s teeth once they have all sprouted and the gaps between them have minimized.

Feed your child nutritious, non-sugary food

Encourage correct eating habits by feeding your child healthy snacks and meals while limiting their intake of candies, chocolate bars, and other cavity-causing food. 

Introduce the cup early

Train your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday. This helps wean them off the bottle, allowing their teeth to develop more naturally.

Baby bottle tooth decay may seem like a minor concern. However, neglecting your child’s oral health to the point that they develop this condition could harm their health further in the long run. Take the above-listed tips to heart, and you’ll be able to make sure that your child’s smile will be protected for the foreseeable future. 

This is a guest post by Dr. Douglas Kim of First Dental Care, a trusted dentist in Anaheim and surrounding areas. Dr. Kim believes that good oral health starts at home, that’s why he is committed to teaching parents on how to properly care for their kids’ teeth in between office visits. Outside of the office, Dr. Kim enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife and their 2 adorable sons.

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