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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Every year thousands of children ages 1-4 suffer from extensive tooth decay. The major culprits are sugar containing liquids found in the baby's bottle - especially during the night.

Just like an adult's mouth, a baby's mouth contains bacteria. These bacteria feed on sugars found in the liquids we drink and in the foods we eat. Bacteria feed on this sugar creating acid as a by-product. It is this acid which attacks the tooth enamel and causes cavities.

Many parents put their children to sleep with a bottle. They often find that this helps the baby settle down and after a long and hard day of parenting, this "time off" could not have happened sooner. Unfortunately, studies show that babies keep the bottles in their mouths for many hours during the night and that the sucking action produces a constant flow of fluid into the mouth throughout the night.

If there is sugar present in the fluid, bacteria on the teeth are continuously nourished with this sugar. This sugar provides the bacteria with the energy they need to multiply and also allows the bacteria to create a steady stream of acid that damages teeth.

Given enough time the acid breaks down the tooth enamel.

Underlying layers of the teeth get infected with the bacteria and a cavity forms. When this happens night after night for months or years, the entire tooth can and has been shown to be eaten away. This is especially critical in children since their teeth are more susceptible to tooth decay than an adult's tooth.

A common question asked by many parents is : Even if my baby does unfortunately get dental cavities won't this problem be solved when the baby's permanent teeth come in. The reason it is important to make sure that even these "temporary" baby teeth remain healthy and cavity free is that baby teeth serve several important functions.

  • They serve as spacers which maintain the proper spacing and alignment of the teeth so that permanent teeth have enough room to come in.
  • They are important in helping the baby learn how to speak and talk properly.
  • Healthy and nice looking teeth are important in building self-confidence and self-esteem. This is especially important at such an early age.

In addition, constant sugar in the mouth can lead to bacteria build-up to a point where the bacteria toxins invade surrounding gum tissue causing gingivitis. In severe cases the bacterial toxins can attack bone structures supporting the teeth resulting in permanent damage (periodontal disease).

What can parents do to protect their children's teeth. We suggest that after every bottle feeding you take a wet cloth or gauze pad and gently wipe your child's gums and teeth. This will remove any bacteria containing plaque and excess sugar that may have built up (a q-tip can also be used).

What liquid should you put in your baby's bedtime bottle? Natural juices such as grape juice or apple juice contain natural sugars which bacteria can use to create acids. Milk contains a sugar called lactose which bacteria can also use to create acid. If you give you child a bedtime bottle, the liquid of choice inside of the baby's bottle is water.

Also try to never give your baby a pacifier dipped in any type of substance containing large amounts of sugar. Many parents, for example, give their children pacifiers dipped in honey. This can be very bad for the baby's teeth.