Nursing Decay Prevention

Nursing or "Baby Bottle" Tooth Decay

A child's teeth begin to emerge when they are just a few months old and still drinking formula or breastmilk. As soon as the teeth erupt from the gums, they become susceptible to tooth decay. Surprising to some parents, decay can begin long before a child is eating solid foods. The condition is known as "baby bottle" decay, and it is caused by prolonged exposure to sugar-containing drinks including breast milk. It is often seen in children who are put to bed with a bottle or given a bottle in place of a pacifier when crying. Baby bottle decay typically affects the upper teeth closest to the front of the mouth where formula or other drinks pass over the teeth and pool during sleep. If bacteria are present in a child's mouth, it can feed on the sugars and begin the decay process.

Early childhood tooth decay can occur very rapidly. It is important to remain vigilant about keeping your child's teeth safe by knowing the early signs of decay. Inspect your child's front four teeth regularly for signs of decay or pain. If your child frequently pulls at his or her mouth, is verbally complaining of tooth pain, or has visual discoloration or white opaqueness of the teeth, please call Brent J. Porter D.D.S, your Santa Cruz Children’s Dentist, for an appointment.

Should I have my child examined for baby bottle tooth decay?

Both the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommend a first dental exam within 6 months of your child's first tooth erupting and every 6 months after that.

However, if your child is exhibiting signs of decay between visits, please call our office, Brent J. Porter D.D.S., your Santa Cruz Pediatric Dentist, for an appointment.

What should I expect during my child's dental exam?

A young child’s first dental exam usually occurs in the parent’s lap. This allows ample visibility and access for Dr. Porter and their parent, while keeping the new surroundings familiar. The information that Dr. Porter gains from this exam will be shared with the parent later after the appointment. Preventative measures will also be discussed at this time. If Dr. Porter identifies baby bottle tooth decay during your child’s visit, he will discuss treatment options with you.

Are there any special instructions I need to follow for preventing baby bottle tooth decay?

Children’s teeth may be temporary during early childhood, but they still depend on their oral health to develop communication skills and chew food. You can prevent baby bottle tooth decay by adopting healthy habits when at the first sign of your child's first tooth:

  • Avoid putting your child to bed or consoling him or her with a bottle.
  • Avoid giving your child sugar-filled beverages from a bottle.
  • Make a habit of brushing your child's teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush daily.
  • Begin using child-safe toothpaste at age 2.
  • Avoid using a bottle after your child's first birthday.

For more information please contact the office of Brent J. Porter D.D.S., Santa Cruz Children’s Dentist (831) 459-9802.