It is OK for your baby or toddler to drink from baby bottles or sippy cups. What you put in the bottle and when they drink it – really matters.

Baby bottle tooth decay is common when your baby drinks from a feeding bottle or sippy cup and gets cavities on their baby teeth. Decay in baby teeth sets the stage for problems with their permanent teeth. It could result in additional issues like cavities and improper placement. 

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Tooth decay – which your dentist refers to as dental caries – is perhaps the most common chronic childhood condition worldwide. Surprisingly the condition is seven times more common than hay fever allergies. Dental caries are five times more common than asthma and 20 times more likely to occur than juvenile diabetes. 

You quickly take good oral health for granted as a parent, mainly because their baby teeth are temporary. The truth is that this condition can have a severe long-term impact on a child’s dental health. Your child’s first months and years play a significant role in their lifelong journey toward good oral and dental health.

Here is what you can do to protect your infant’s teeth and prevent them from using baby bottles. 

Why Are Baby Bottles Bad for Your Toddlers?

It is a known fact that a child can develop caries at any age, but children who drink using bottles are uniquely susceptible to this problem. They encounter this problem starting as early as 6 months of age. 

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When infants and young children drink sugary drinks frequently like juice and milk from baby bottles, the sugars remain on their teeth. This prolonged sugary food in their teeth produces decay-causing bacteria. Over time, their baby teeth start to form toddler cavities. In some extreme cases, their teeth may have to be extracted.

What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay primarily refers to tooth decay during the first few years of a child’s life. The condition occurs when your child takes high-sugar liquids which cling to their teeth and produce excessive amounts of decay-causing bacteria. If it continues for long, this sugary stuff can lead to tooth decay. Often, signs of tooth decay in toddlers are seen on their front teeth first, but decay can occur in any teeth a child has.

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This condition has many different names as follows:

  • Early childhood caries (ECC)
  • Bottle rot
  • Baby bottle syndrome
  • Nursing bottle syndrome
  • Baby bottle mouth

One of the significant differences between baby bottle tooth decay and normal tooth decay in older children –  is that this early condition stems from the consumption of formula milk and fruit juices. Every one of us has bacteria in our mouths. But when those bacteria are exposed to the sugars in these liquids and fluids, they multiply and form an acid.

Over time, they wear away your tooth enamel. Once the enamel is worn away enough that decay and tooth cavities form. Healthy teeth is must for your kid’s baby smile.

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Sometimes parents mistakenly believe their kid’s oral health does not matter because they only have a handful of teeth. Many also think that their baby teeth will eventually fall out. But remember, these baby teeth are more than placeholders for permanent teeth. Baby teeth have a vital role to play in your child’s health and development by:

  • They help chew baby foods or finger food properly so your child can get the nutrition they need for overall healthy development.
  • Assists in proper speech and word formation.
  • They help form the shape of your child’s face.
  • Baby teeth help maintain the proper spacing in the mouth for more prominent permanent teeth, thereby preventing misaligned or poorly spaced adult teeth.

What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

To prevent problems and decay caused by baby bottles, it is essential to understand baby bottle tooth decay completely. As you might know, tooth decay happens when bacteria in your mouth produce an acidic substance that slowly wears away at tooth enamel. The following are specific practices that could lead to early childhood caries:

1. Consumption of Juice and Milk

Babies and young children who solely rely on bottles to consume milk and juice are especially at high risk for decay. When your child drinks from a bottle, especially at naptime and bedtime, they drink slowly, and some of the liquid remains in their mouth after they fall asleep. 

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Even once your baby stops sucking on the bottle, some liquid might remain in their mouth. The human body produces less saliva during sleep. As a result, it reduces your ability to wash away the sugars left behind from the milk.

We all know that milk is an essential component of your young child’s diet. But as your baby grows and becomes a toddler, it is crucial to teach them to drink milk during their waking hours. In addition, you should also teach your baby to consume it from a cup.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approx. 4 ounces to 6 ounces of juice is acceptable. However, the juice should be mixed with water to dilute the amount of sugar your baby is consuming. Remember never to give your child juices and drink at bedtime or naptime.

2. Dipping Pacifiers in Sugary Substances

Many children enjoy sucking on a pacifier coated in juice or syrup. But exposing their young teeth to these high levels of sugary substances can lead to decay. 

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Like sugary drinks, these substances often linger in the mouth and teeth. This sugary stuff encourages bacteria growth and tooth decay. If your baby relies on a pacifier for comfort, you should avoid putting anything on it. Instead, wash it frequently to prevent residual milk and juice sugars – which might transfer from their mouth to the pacifier and back again.

3. Relying on a Bottle After Age 1

Sucking on pacifiers and baby bottles is comforting for most infants. So why are baby bottles bad for toddlers? It is common for parents to get into the habit of relying on a bottle to probably make them stop crying. These things might comfort your child, and you may allow your baby to use these items long after they are necessary.

Because of the risk of decay, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents aim to transition their child from a bottle to a cup once they reach their first birthday. 

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Drinking from a cup rather than a bottle often discourages slow sipping over time. This habit prevents your baby from falling asleep with liquids in their mouth. Babies who remain attached to these items might need to be weaned off gently. The weaning should happen by replacing sugary drinks with water in the bottle, especially at naptime and bedtime.

How to Prevent Baby Bottle Syndrome

Baby bottle tooth decay – often caused by frequent use of baby bottles can cause serious problems. But it is also one of the easiest childhood conditions to prevent. By following a few simple steps, you can go a long way towards preventing bottle rot and protecting your baby’s teeth:

1. Establish a Brushing Routine Early

It is important to note that you should not wait to establish a brushing routine until your infant has a mouthful of teeth. After each feeding, you can take a warm washcloth or clean gauze and gently wipe your baby’s gums.

Once you notice that your kid’s teeth begin to erupt through the gums, start brushing their teeth two to three a day. You can find toothbrushes for young children at your local drugstore. However, at this stage, it is not necessary to use baby toothpaste. But if you want to use one, be sure to select something fluoride-free.

2. Monitor Brushing as Your Kid Grows

Once all your baby’s teeth are in, begin teaching them to brush their teeth themselves. Remember that young children need to be monitored in order to ensure they are brushing properly. Meaning they reach all the teeth in the sides and back of their mouths.

This is also the perfect time to start teaching them how to floss. Flossing teeth is very important for your child. Your family dentist can help monitor your child’s teeth and detect problems early on. They can also advise you on when and how to begin using a fluoride-based toothpaste.

3. Monitor Juice Intake

Juices that contain 100 percent fruit juice do have a place in your baby’s diet, as long as they consume in moderation. The best way to limit your baby’s juice intake is to use juice as a treat rather than a staple. When your baby does drink juice, dilute it down to decrease the amount of sugar they are consuming. Always encourage water and milk consumption over juice.

4. Limit Liquids at Night

It is common for babies to want a drink at bedtime, especially young and accustomed to drinking baby bottles or nursing before bedtime. You should try early to stop pre-bedtime feedings and limit evening liquid consumption to water only.

5. Teach Children to Drink From a Cup

Most parents often transition their child from a bottle to a sippy cup and then stop. Remember that sippy cups are meant to help your baby transition from a bottle to a traditional cup. 

When parents stop the transition at a sippy cup, then your baby is still at risk for bottle tooth decay. Remember that most of the sippy cups in the market, especially those with valves, are technically versions of a baby bottle. Probably because your baby has to suck on them to get liquid out. Note that sippy cups continue the risk of infant caries as they allow sugars to linger near your baby’s teeth.

You must choose sippy cups that do not have a valve, and you should only use them to help transition your child from a bottle to a cup. The best training cups generally have a screw-on lid with a spout.

As you teach your baby to use this cup, also teach them that most liquids, other than water, should only be taken at mealtime. Eating will increase saliva production, which means that sugars consumed at mealtime are less likely to stick on your baby’s teeth.

Learn How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay at Dentist Ahmed

At Dentist Ahmed, we believe the best dental experience happens when dentists listen to their patients and understand their problems to provide quality care. Our clinic is designed to ensure you and your family receive top-notch care every time you visit our clinic. Our ultra-modern setting is entirely suitable for your infant and child, providing the proper treatment at the clinic. So you can relax knowing you are in capable hands. Schedule your visit today.