Baby Bottle Syndrome Prevention

Baby bottle syndrome, also known as early childhood caries, is a syndrome characterized by severe tooth decay in infants and young children. Early childhood caries is a very common bacterial infection, at times affecting more than 70% of children in the United States.

Infant Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is a bacterial infection that begins with the cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the parents (or caregivers) that have the bacteria in their mouth, to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva when the parent or caregiver puts the feeding spoon in their mouth or cleans a pacifier in their mouth. The bacteria are then passed to the baby.

Tooth Decay Causes

Sometimes parents and other caregivers do not realize that a baby’s teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they appear in the mouth. Your child’s first set of teeth- the baby or primary teeth- begin to erupt about six months after the baby is born. Most children will have all 20 of their baby teeth by their third birthday. Primary (baby) teeth that are strong and healthy are just as important as permanent teeth- for chewing, speaking, and appearance. In addition, the primary teeth hold the space in the jaws for the permanent teeth. Both primary and permanent teeth help give the face its shape and form.

Another factor for tooth decay is when a child’s teeth are frequently exposed to sugary liquids such as milk, formula, fruit juice or other sweetened liquids for long periods of time. It most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected. In some unfortunate cases, infants and toddlers have experienced decay so severe that the teeth cannot be repaired and need to be removed. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable.

You can help prevent tooth decay for your child by following these tips:

  • Never allow your baby or toddler to fall asleep with either a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or other sugary liquids or a pacifier dipped in sugar or honey.
  • Begin oral care early. Wipe the baby’s gums with a wet washcloth after each feeding and begin brushing your child’s teeth with a fluoride-free tooth paste as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • Schedule your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday.
  • Do not clean the pacifier by placing it in your mouth, or by sharing the feeding spoon.
  • Discuss your child’s fluoride needs with your dentist or pediatrician.

To help reduce the risk of tooth decay, babies and toddlers should finish their nap time and bedtime bottles before going to bed.

Children should not be allowed to continuously sip on sugary liquids from training cups since this type of frequent and prolonged exposure to sugar can lead to decay. The sugary liquids pool around the teeth while the child sleeps. Bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food. They then produce acids that attack the teeth. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack the teeth for 20 minutes or longer. After multiple attacks, the teeth can begin to decay. Pacifiers dipped in sugar or sugary liquids can also lead to tooth decay since the sugar can provide food for the bacteria to attack the teeth.

Infants and toddlers who do not receive an adequate amount of fluoride may also have a higher risk for tooth decay since the fluoride combines with the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) to help make the tooth more resistant to bacteria and acid attacks.

Fortune favors the bold.
— Latin Proverb