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The Informed Parent

Baby Bottle Decay

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jul. 25, 2005

How does a parent prevent baby bottle decay? Baby bottle decay, also called nursing caries or bottle syndrome, occurs when the baby sleeps with a bottle containing any fluid other than water. Liquid from the bottle pools around the upper front teeth. It can cause rapid decay of the maxillary incisors and the first primary molar teeth. The timing for this type of caries is between one and two years of age.

Baby bottle caries results from improper feeding practices and can be prevented with appropriate feeding practices. Your pediatrician will be able to counsel you about the proper way to feed your baby with a bottle.

The baby should not sleep with a bottle in the bed. Generally, children who use the sleep time bottle beyond one year of age are at risk for baby bottle tooth decay. Any spots that appear on the teeth after one year of age are indicators of baby bottle tooth decay. This means that the child should see a dentist immediately. As little as one-to-two months can occur between dental caries and entire tooth destruction. The outcome from baby bottle tooth decay can be infection, pain, premature tooth loss, and an increased risk for further dental caries for several years after the bottle is discontinued.

See your child’s pediatrician for further information about baby bottle tooth decay.

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