- Aug. 10, 2023

What is baby bottle decay or nursing caries?


Baby bottle decay, also known as nursing decay refers to severe tooth decay in infants and young children. It occurs when sugary liquids, such as formula or milk (as well as fruit juice, or sweetened beverages) are frequently exposed to a child’s teeth over an extended period, often through prolonged use of a baby bottle or sippy cup. The sugars in these liquids provide a food source for bacteria in the mouth, which produce acids that attack and erode tooth enamel.

Baby bottle decay commonly affects the front teeth, leading to cavities, discoloration, and decay.

The earliest sign of decay is a “white spot lesion”, which is an area of weaken enamel that appears white in color on the front of the teeth. These white spots can progress to form cavities which appear as brown or yellow spots on the teeth.

This condition is particularly concerning as it can negatively impact a child’s oral health at a very young age, leading to pain, difficulty eating, speech problems, and potential complications that extend into their permanent teeth.

Preventing baby bottle decay involves:

  • Limiting Sugary Drinks: Avoid filling bottles with sugary liquids, especially before bedtime. Water is the best choice for hydration.
  • Avoiding Prolonged Bottle Use: Gradually transition from bottle to cup as your child reaches the appropriate age and developmental stage.
  • Regular Dental Visits: Begin dental visits around your child’s first birthday or when the first tooth emerges.
  • Oral Hygiene: Clean your child’s gums with a soft cloth and brush their teeth gently once the first tooth appears.
  • Balanced Diet: Offer a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients and limit sugary snacks.

By taking proactive steps to prevent baby bottle decay, parents can help ensure their child’s oral health and lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

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