Baby bottle tooth decay can happen when a child is exposed to the sugar in certain liquids for a long period of time, which can impact tooth enamel and lead to extensive tooth decay. Essentially, any liquid that’s not water can cause this condition, even breastmilk.
Liquids such as milk, juice, breastmilk, and formula contain natural sugars. While not harmful in and of themselves, your child’s oral bacteria will convert these sugars into acid which can attack tooth enamel and cause your child’s teeth to be more vulnerable to decay .
Your child is at risk for tooth decay as soon as their first teeth appear, which is generally by their first birthday. What can you do to prevent baby bottle tooth decay and protect your child’s smile?
Avoid Sharing Saliva
Your own oral bacteria can proliferate in your child’s mouth to cause tooth decay. So if you have any existing oral bacteria that can cause tooth decay, you can pass these onto your child.
This is why it’s important to avoid sharing saliva with your child whenever possible . This means not sharing utensils and not cleaning their pacifier with your own mouth. By doing so, you can keep your child’s oral bacteria healthy and help prevent tooth decay.
Clean Your Child’s Mouth
Even if your child doesn’t yet have their first teeth in, you can still clean their smile to keep their oral cavity healthy and ready for those first teeth. Before your little one has their first tooth, you can simply wipe their gums clean with a clean cloth after each feeding. However, once your child has their first tooth, you can begin gently brushing their teeth with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste. And, once your child has two teeth that touch, you can start flossing!
Be Mindful of When Your Child Eats
To prevent baby bottle tooth decay, it’s essential to not let your child go to bed with a bottle, not even for a nap. This exposes your child’s teeth to sugars that can contribute to tooth decay for a longer period of time. You can also discourage your child from walking around with a bottle or sipping on it throughout the day, which can also overexpose the teeth to sugar.
Encourage Drinking From a Cup
As your child gets older, encourage them to drink from a cup. By the time your child reaches their first birthday, they should be able to drink from a cup and you can consider discontinuing the use of a bottle. However, if your child is still breastfeeding, be sure to gently clean their teeth after each feeding if possible.
Have Questions? Follow Up With Your Dentist
Baby bottle tooth decay isn’t always obvious, but it can be painful for your child when cavities develop . Preventing baby bottle tooth decay is important to protecting your child’s teeth to set the stage for a healthy adult smile. Have questions about your child’s oral care? Don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatric dentist!