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A Guide to Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

toddler lying in armchair drinking from a bottle

As a parent, you want what’s best for your child and to see them healthy and happy. Sometimes that means giving them a bottle before nap or bedtime. However, this can hurt their oral health if you’re not careful. This guide covers everything from causes to bottle tooth decay treatment.

What Is Milk Tooth Decay?

Bottle decay, also known as early childhood caries, is when a child’s baby or primary teeth have a severe amount of cavities or level of decay. It typically happens to the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also show signs.

What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

This type of decay occurs when children are given sugary drinks or treats too close to nap or bedtime. That includes formula, milk, fruit juices, or pacifiers dipped in sugar or syrup.

The sugar in these beverages lingers on your baby’s teeth. Bacteria in the mouth then turn these sugars into acids that eat away at your child’s enamel, leading to cavities. Baby teeth enamel is thinner than permanent teeth, making them particularly susceptible.

During the day, saliva helps wash away these sugars as your baby makes sounds or swallows. At night, however, their saliva production slows, giving bacteria the time it needs to convert the sugars to acids.

What Is the Best Bottle Tooth Decay Treatment?

selective focus of pacifier lying on baby’s chest

If your child shows signs of baby bottle tooth decay (spots on teeth, tooth sensitivity), it’s important to take them to the dentist right away. Your pediatric dentist will clean out any cavities and fill them with a sealant to help stop the spread.

Also, take steps to break their habit of going to sleep with a bottle of a sugary drink. Over the course of two weeks, gradually dilute the formula with water. Once that period is over, give them only water before bed. You can also try swapping the bottle for a clean pacifier. This type of decay is sometimes called milk tooth decay, so avoid sweetened milk as well.

Of course, the best treatment is prevention. Here are a few ways to help prevent baby bottle tooth decay:

  • Schedule bottle feedings so your child doesn’t need to go to sleep with one (or fill their bottle only with water).
  • Ensure they’re getting fluoride from either a toothpaste or drinking water or both.
  • Clean their teeth and gums regularly. Brush their teeth for two minutes, twice per day. Make sure one of the times is right before bed.
  • Include extra brushings after ingesting sugary substances, including cough syrups.
  • Schedule twice-yearly dental visits for in-depth cleanings and examinations.
  • Encourage drinking from a cup starting at about their first birthday.

A few simple changes in routine are all it takes to reduce the risk of baby bottle tooth decay.

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you suspect your child needs treatment for bottle tooth decay, don’t wait. Schedule an appointment with our friendly staff. We’re dedicated to providing your child with the best dental care possible in a welcoming environment. Schedule your appointment today.