Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: What It Is and 12 Tips for Reducing Your Child’s Risk

Gentle Dental

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: What It Is and 12 Tips for Reducing Your Child's Risk

Baby bottle tooth decay or “bottle rot” is an all-too-common problem which can usually be prevented. Here’s how you can avoid this serious issue and keep your child’s teeth healthy for years to come. 

What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when sweetened drinks or liquids with natural sugars (such as formula, milk and fruit juice) adhere to an infant’s newly developed teeth for extended periods of time. Because oral bacteria thrive on this sugar, they can quickly proliferate and generate acids that attack the teeth.

Parents increase the risk of baby bottle tooth decay when they dip their child’s pacifier in sugar or syrup. Giving an infant a sweet drink at nighttime or nap time is particularly harmful since the flow of saliva diminishes during sleep. While baby bottle tooth decay usually happens in the front teeth of the upper jaw, other teeth can also be affected, leading to decay which requires treatment.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Treatment

Treatments vary depending on the age of a child and the severity of the condition. At the earliest signs of decay, fluoride treatments, varnish or supplements may be enough to remineralize teeth. 

If decay is identified at later stages, more aggressive treatments may be required including the use of stainless-steel crowns, according to The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. In very severe instances, decaying teeth may even need to be extracted. This is more likely when teeth have decayed so much they simply cannot be restored.

Reducing the Risk of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

You can reduce the risk of baby bottle tooth decay with the following tips:

  1. Always wipe down your baby’s gums with a clean washcloth or gauze pad before every feeding.
  2. Start brushing your child’s teeth without any toothpaste when you see the very first tooth erupt.
  3. Once all of your baby’s teeth have erupted, start flossing between each one daily.
  4. Never fill bottles with sugar water or soft drinks.
  5. Dilute fruit juice with about 50 percent water. 
  6. Never let your child fall asleep with a bottle of anything except water.
  7. Don’t give your baby a pacifier dipped in something sweet.
  8. Limit the sugar in your child’s diet, especially between regular meals.
  9. Gradually start diluting the contents of each bottle with water over 2 to 3 weeks.
  10. If your local water supply doesn’t contain fluoride, ask your dentist if you need to use a supplement.
  11. Schedule routine visits with a pediatric dentist starting when the first tooth appears. 

Since the premature loss of baby teeth can lead to development and alignment issues, it’s important to take steps to preserve your child’s oral health as soon as you notice his or her very first tooth.