Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Tooth decay in infants


The baby teeth (primary teeth) can get tooth decay, also known as caries, just like the permanent adult teeth. In fact, tooth decay can occur more quickly in baby teeth because the hard outer layer of enamel is thinner than it is in permanent teeth.

Almost every beverage other than water has sugar in it (even breast milk), and it’s the sugar in liquids that causes baby bottle decay. Infants need the nutrition and energy that is provided by breast milk or formula, but when they are allowed to feed passively they are at high risk for developing tooth decay. When children are actively nursing, the muscles in the mouth and tongue move and clean the teeth with saliva. Once the child falls asleep, sugary liquids can coat teeth and stay there for a long time. This leads to decay. For this reason, it’s best not to allow infants to nurse once they have fallen asleep. If a child must be put to sleep with a bottle, fill the bottle with water.

It’s also recommended that children stop breast or bottle feeding and eat solid foods by their first birthday. Children should be fed healthy, nutritious foods at meal times, and sugary snacks should be avoided.

If you notice discolored spots on your child’s teeth (yellow, orange, brown or black), this may be tooth decay. If you suspect this is the case, take your child to the dentist for an evaluation. Regular dental visits (starting by one year of age) are strongly recommended for avoiding tooth decay. When you bring your child to the dentist, your dentist can provide more specific instructions on how to care for your child’s teeth.