Parent Information

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a major cause of tooth decay in infants.  Although baby teeth are eventually replaced by permanent teeth, severe decay to baby teeth can lead to pain, infection, and early tooth loss.  If baby teeth are lost too early, the permanent teeth may become crooked or have no room to erupt.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay can develop if your child's teeth and gums are in prolonged contact with any liquid other than water.  Tooth decay is promoted not only by what sugar the teeth are in contact with, but also how long the sugar is in contact with the teeth.  Bacteria in the mouth change sugars to acid which then dissolve the tooth enamel.  Major risk factors for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay include putting your child to sleep with a bottle and allowing your child to suck on a bottle or breastfeed longer than a usual mealtime.

Tips to preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay:

  • Never put your child to bed with a bottle.  This includes any lying-down position.
  • Only give your baby a bottle during meals.  Do not allow your child to walk around with a bottle for extended periods, and do not use the bottle as a pacifier.
  • Teach your child to drink from a cup as soon as possible.  Most children can learn to drink from a cup by 1 year of age.
  • Do not continually breastfeed throughout the night.  Nighttime feedings should be at least 2 hours apart.

You can clean your child's teeth as soon as they erupt.  When there are only a few teeth you can wipe them clean with a gauze pad or damp washcloth after feeds.  When your child has 7 or 8 teeth, brush the teeth twice daily with a small child-sized toothbrush.  Use a baby toothpaste that your child can swallow; switch to a fluoride-containing toothpaste only after your child learns to expectorate the toothpaste, generally by 3 or 4 years of age.

Since most municipalities in north New Jersey do not contain fluoride, almost all of our children are prescribed a multivitamin with flouride starting at 6 months of age.  If you are not sure about the fluoride supply in your area, check the fluoride page of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.


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