We all know how convenient it is to put our babies to bed with a bottle. The idea seems especially tempting after a long day and your little one is having a hard time settling down. It can be a tough habit to break for you or your child, but this can lead to tooth decay.
Tooth decay in infants and young children is often referred to as Early Childhood Caries or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. One of the most common causes of baby bottle tooth decay is putting a baby to bed with a bottle of sweetened liquids or those with natural sugars like milk, formula and fruit juice. Another notable cause is using a bottle as an all day long pacifier for a fussy baby.
Giving your baby sugary drink at nap or bedtime allows sugar to pool in your baby’s mouth. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar, producing acids that attack the teeth. This is a bigger reason for concern because the decrease in salivary flow during sleep means less protection for your baby’s milk teeth.
The upper front teeth are most vulnerable to damage from nursing bottle mouth, but other teeth may also be affected.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Massage and wipe your baby’s gums with a clean damp gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- When your child’s first tooth comes in, brush it gently with a child-size toothbrush and water. Use just a “smear” of toothpaste for children younger than 3 years old and a pea-size amount for children 3 to 6.
- Start flossing daily as soon as two teeth touch each other.
- Never put your baby to bed with a bottle containing anything but water. If your baby sleeps with a bottle, gradually wean him or her off by removing it as soon as he or she falls asleep. Dilute the bottle contents with water over 2 to 3 weeks. Once that period is over, fill the bottle only with water.
- Place only formula, milk or breastmilk in bottles. Never fill bottles with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- Never give your child a pacifier dipped in anything sweet like sugar or honey.
- Wean your baby off of juice (yes, this includes those labelled 100% freshly squeezed). Once your child is old enough to carry around a sippy cup try filling it with just water. Limit the consumption of juice to meal times only. Here are some guidelines for sippy cup use.
- Book your baby’s first visit to the dentist after the first tooth emerges and no later than the first birthday.
Got your own tip on preventing baby bottle tooth decay? Share it with us on the comment section below.
Updated: 15 March 2015