Baby teeth are small but mighty! Even though they only hang around for about a decade, baby teeth have fundamental responsibilities as your child learns how to speak, chew and bite, develop healthy oral hygiene habits, and build self-confidence.
It’s important that your child’s teeth are clean and strong enough to support them through childhood. Babies’ immune systems are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to bacteria, germs and common childhood diseases, like baby bottle tooth decay.
Tooth decay is actually the most common chronic infectious childhood disease (American Academy of Pediatrics). We’re here to help you prevent it!
At Kids Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we believe that a healthy baby is a happy baby. We’ll work with you to develop healthy oral hygiene habits that support your child for a lifetime.
Here’s what you need to know about baby bottle tooth decay:
What is bottle rot?
Bottle rot, also called baby bottle tooth decay, is a serious childhood disease that develops when a child drinks sugary liquids consistently, over long periods of time. Consistent exposure to sugars encourages bacteria growth in the mouth, leading to an infection in the teeth and gums.
Baby bottle tooth decay often progresses unnoticed, because most babies don’t show any symptoms at first; however, if left untreated, this disease can cause permanent damage to your child’s teeth.
How does a child get baby bottle tooth decay?
Drinking sugary liquids, such as milk or formula, creates a coating on the teeth that promotes bacterial growth and produces acids. These acids then attack the enamel (protective outer layer of the teeth), leading to cavities and tooth decay.
Bottle rot causes include:
- Feeding your baby for long periods of time.
- Babies falling asleep with a bottle in their mouth.
- Bacteria passed from mom, guardian or dad to the infant. (If a parent cleans the pacifier with his or her mouth, or licks the baby’s feeding spoon, this can pass cavity-causing bacteria to the baby.)
- Children consume sugary drinks prior to sleeping, which allows the acids to attack the teeth.
How can I prevent baby bottle tooth decay?
Here are a few tips for preventing baby bottle tooth decay:
- Keep your baby’s teeth clean, according to American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations:
- Birth to 12 months: Gently wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, soft washcloth. Once their first tooth emerges, use a very soft baby toothbrush and a bit of ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) to gently brush the teeth.
- 12 to 36 months: Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste, brush your child’s teeth twice daily for two minutes each time. Use a rice-sized toothpaste smear, and be sure to brush after breakfast and before bed.
- Only use formula, milk, or breast milk in baby bottles.
- Liquids with high sugar content, like sugar water, juices or soft drinks, can quickly lead to bacteria buildup in the bottle and in your child’s teeth.
- Don’t allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth.
- Unless the baby bottle only has water in it, don’t allow them to use their bottle as a pacifier. Pacifying with a baby bottle can leave your child’s teeth openly exposed to sugars and acids throughout the night.
- Visit us for regular check-ups!
Schedule your child’s next appointment – or first appointment – today!
We’re here to answer your questions, and we want you and your child to know your options! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at any time.
Dr. Sierra, Dr. Kwon, Dr. Patel, and our team are here to help guide you and your child. We offer kinder, gentler dentistry for kids and teens. It is our goal that your child develops and maintains a positive association with dental care and we do everything we can to create a pleasant, supportive, and fun environment for our little patients.