Early Tooth Decay in Infants and Toddlers

Did you know that your baby’s bottle could increase their chances of developing tooth decay? Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a fairly common issue parents face, and one that many are unaware of until their child’s pediatric dentist finds cavities.

Here’s what you need to know about Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, including how to prevent it from happening to your baby or toddler.

What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a type of decay that occurs in infants and toddlers who are still using a bottle. This particular form of tooth decay typically impacts the front upper two teeth, though it can cause decay on any erupted baby teeth. The same bacteria responsible for general decay are also responsible for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Many pediatric dentists simply use this specific term to point to cases of decay in which a bottle is a contributing factor.

What causes Baby Bottle Decay?

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay typically occurs for these two reasons.

  1. A bottle is being used for a prolonged period of time or overnight.
  2. The baby’s mouth and teeth aren’t being thoroughly cleaned.

Bottles are undoubtedly important tools for feeding an infant, but they should also be used in a manner that supports a child’s oral health. While a pediatric dentist will be sure to explain the Baby Bottle Decay issue with parents, many pediatric doctors don’t spend as much time discussing oral health and bottle use. This means that, through no fault of their own, a large number of parents and caregivers are unaware that their child is overusing their bottle. Even pacifiers can be overused and lead to dental trouble.

When a baby suckles on a bottle, their teeth are in direct contact with the beverage they’re consuming as well as the rubber nipple. This prolonged close contact encourages bacteria to produce the acids that cause tooth decay. Sweet dietary formulas or diluted fruit juices are typically the worst offenders as bacteria love these food sources as fuel. Since baby teeth have thinner enamel than adult teeth, it doesn’t take nearly as long for decay to occur.

An additional issue that can exacerbate Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is poor oral hygiene. If parents haven’t yet taken their baby to a pediatric dentist, they may not know that dental care should begin as soon as teeth begin to erupt. Lightly brushing baby teeth and cleaning the gums is very important at this stage, even if your baby only has one or two teeth.

How do I know If my child has Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

If your baby relies heavily on a bottle and uses one throughout the day or during the night, they have a much higher risk of developing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Very early decay is tough to see with the naked eye, but as the tooth enamel damage progresses, parents will notice symptoms.

The most obvious sign is visible tooth decay on the surface of the front teeth. This may appear as white, yellow, or even brown discoloration. Soft spots are also another sign of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. If a cavity goes deep enough it will also cause teeth sensitivity and pain. If your child is suddenly acting tender-mouthed, especially when they drink something cold, this is another sign of trouble.

How can I prevent Baby Bottle Decay?

You can prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay and general infant tooth decay from happening by:

  • Removing bottles before naps or bedtime.
  • Sanitizing bottles, pacifiers, and teething toys as recommended.
  • Refraining from tempting babies with sugar or honey on a bottle or pacifier.
  • Resisting sharing spoons with your baby (as bacteria can be transferred via the spoon).
  • Wiping teeth nubs and gums with a clean damp washcloth after feeding.
  • Brushing erupted teeth with a very soft infant toothbrush.
  • Taking your baby in for dental checkups every six months, beginning at age one.

Remember, the ADA recommends that babies see a pediatric dentist by their first birthday or within six months of a tooth erupting. Getting your child accustomed to dental care visits from an early age helps build confidence and trust with their dentist. It is also the best form of defense against cavities and other oral trouble. Regular trips to the pediatric dentist will ensure your baby’s smile is healthy and developing well.

Find a pediatric dental home to nurture your child’s growing smile.

The most rewarding investment you can make in your child’s oral health is to pick a long-term pediatric dental home. Developing an early relationship with a pediatric dentist reaps many rewards for kids as well as parents. Parents will have peace of mind knowing their child’s smile is healthy and kids will also learn that dentists are important friends who can be trusted.

If you suspect your baby has a cavity or you’re simply looking to proactively prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay from happening, the We Make Kids Smile team can help. Our Prince Frederick and Waldorf, MD, offices are always accepting new kids to our welcoming pediatric dental home.

You can schedule an appointment for your child by calling your preferred location or using this online form.

Do you have a question? We can help!


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3460 Old Washington Rd, #200
Waldorf, MD 20602

Prince Frederick

Prince Frederick

Prince Frederick

540 Main Street
Prince Frederick, MD 20678


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