Could your baby’s bottle be leading to tooth decay?

Posted on September 8, 2021 | Hot Topics

Could your baby’s bottle be leading to tooth decay?

We’ve all done it – sent our toddlers to bed right after a bottle of milk, maybe even some juice. It can quickly become routine. If this is a regular rhythm for you and your toddler, it might be time to consider swapping out the milk or juice for some water.

“Baby Bottle Tooth Decay” doesn’t sound very technical, but it’s the term we use when decay develops in baby teeth due to frequent and prolonged contact with too much sugar. One main culprit is when babies are put to bed with a bottle instead of a pacifier, or when a baby regularly uses a sippy cup with juice or milk, for an extended period of time. The bacteria in the mouth that feeds on the sugar multiplies and then produces acid as its waste product. Read more about childhood cavities here. The acid then attacks the teeth and the tooth enamel – resulting in tooth decay.

Should you be concerned?

Not to minimize the situation, but they are just baby teeth, right? Your child will end up losing those teeth in order to make way for permanent teeth. While that is true, babies do lose their baby teeth, but infant cavities can be a serious problem. It shouldn’t come as a shock that children need their teeth to chew, speak, and smile. Baby teeth hold the space for permanent teeth. If your child loses a baby tooth too early, the adjacent teeth are more likely to tilt or drift into the empty space and create limited space in the jaw for the permanent tooth to erupt. If left untreated, the permanent tooth can come in crowded or be blocked from erupting. In addition, untreated decay can cause potentially serious infections.


If baby teeth don’t develop properly, your baby can develop poor eating habits or even have speech problems.

Be aware of the first signs of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: white spots will begin to appear on the smooth surfaces of the front teeth. If untreated, these white spots will quickly develop into tooth decay. Teeth that already have decay may appear brown or black. It most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.

Ways to prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

  • Try not to share saliva with your baby by sharing feeding spoons or licking pacifiers.
  • Place only formula or (breast) milk in bottles.
  • Avoid filling bottles with juice or other sugary liquids.
  • If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean.
  • Don’t let your child walk around with a bottle of juice or milk.
  • Wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
  • Begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as you see the first sign of growth. Brush gently with a child-size toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your child’s teeth after all of them have grown in.
  • Limit the amount of juice you give your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 6 ounces per day for young children. Babies under 6 months should not drink juice at all.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits, and limit sweets in general.
  • Schedule regular dental visits by your child’s first birthday.

Remember, it’s never too late to break bad habits. If your child currently drinks sweetened liquids from the bottle or sleeps with a bottle, you can work to break the habit now. Begin by gradually diluting the bottle with water over 2 to 3 weeks until you give only water.

What seems painful and sacrificial now could save your kiddo from a load of problems down the road. 





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