Baby Bottle Tooth Decay – The Condition And How To Counter It

Baby bottle tooth decay is a common condition that many parents face when raising their infants, and this refers to the dental decay in infants, who don’t yet have fully developed adult teeth.

Dental caries, also known as ‘tooth decay’ or ‘tooth cavity’, is a hole or a permanent structural damage to a tooth. Although one can prevent tooth decay, it remains one of the most common chronic problems that people face.

Tooth decay is caused by a combination of factors, including the presence of bacteria in the mouth, the lack of a proper maintenance or cleaning routine, frequent snacking, and prolonged exposure to sugary drinks. To understand how to counter baby bottle tooth decay, you should first learn what the causes of tooth decay are.

What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay refers to dental caries seen in a child from the time the baby teeth come out (6 months – 2 years) up to 4 years of age.

The upper front baby/milk teeth are typically involved in this condition. It is caused by the retention of milk or formula feed in the mouth, especially at night, and it is also known by various other names like nursing bottle caries, nursing caries, bottle mouth, and bottle caries.

Why Are Children Affected By Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

A child that falls asleep with a feeding bottle or while breast feeding faces a risk of developing baby bottle tooth decay, explaining the name.

baby bottle tooth decay

Baby bottle tooth decay mainly affects the upper front teeth and the molars.

When children are put to bed either during the afternoon or at night with a nursing bottle that contains milk or a sugar-laced beverage, the milk or sweetened beverage pools around the upper front teeth when the child is asleep. This carbohydrate-rich liquid provides an excellent medium for the grown of bacteria.

Another fact to be kept in mind is that the flow of saliva decreases during sleep and for this reason, the sweetened liquid cannot be cleared as rapidly by saliva. This commonly results in baby bottle tooth decay with time.

The Symptoms Of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

These are the symptoms of baby bottle tooth decay:

  • Characteristic involvement of the upper front baby teeth and the baby molars, with the lower front milk teeth being spared
  • Cavities may look like dark pits or holes and teeth will appear eaten away or broken
  • The child may complain of toothache and difficulty in eating food

Some Tips To Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

By actively taking up some preventive measures, you can avoid baby bottle tooth decay.

  • Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first teeth come in. Gently brush with a child-sized toothbrush and water.
  • Fluoridated toothpaste can be used safely when you are sure that your child spits out all of the toothpaste after brushing. Older children can use a toothbrush with soft, nylon bristles. Use a very small amount of toothpaste (no more than the size of a pea). You should consult the child’s dentist before considering using fluoride toothpaste.
  • After each feed, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.  Rinsing the mouth is an option you can try with older children.
  • Ensure that infants finish their bedtime and nap-time bottle feeds before going to bed.
  • Put your child to bed with only a bottle of water if he/she is habituated to it. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice, or soft drinks.
  • If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean, and do not dip it in sugar or honey.
  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.
  • Take your child for his/her first dental examination by 9 months of age.

How To Treat Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

If you’ve let the condition slip by unawares and your child’s teeth are infected, you can choose a treatment option based on the severity of the decay. Your options include filling or placing a cap over the decayed teeth, and in serious cases, the decayed tooth may have to be removed.

Treating baby bottle tooth decay is extremely essential because the condition might affect the child’s further dental development and bring about decay in his/her adult teeth too.


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