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The Informed Parent

My Baby Needs That Sleep Time Bottle

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Aug. 14, 2006

Baby bottle decay, also called nursing caries or bottle syndrome, results from the child sleeping with a bottle containing anything other than water. There is an estimated fifteen percent incidence of baby bottle decay in areas that have no fluoridated water. It also occurs frequently in suburban, two career families where the parents return tired from the day's work. They are more inclined to give the baby a sleep time bottle.

Baby bottle decay occurs when liquid from the bottle pools around the upper front teeth and frequently causes rapid decay of the maxillary incisors as well as the first primary molar teeth. The timing of this type of dental caries is between one and two years of age, although sometime it can occur before one year. The consequences of baby bottle decay can include infections, pain, premature tooth loss, and an increased risk for dental caries.

The following proper feeding practices will usually eliminate the possibility of baby bottle decay:

The baby should never sleep with the bottle in the bed. Children who are put to bed with the bottle are at the greatest risk of developing baby bottle decay.

Any spots appearing on the teeth after one year of age are indicators of baby bottle decay. The baby should be immediately referred to a pediatric dentist. The dental caries arising from baby bottle decay can rapidly progress to tooth destruction in as little as one-to-two months.

Weaning the baby from the sleep time bottle can be a difficult experience. The child may strongly resist and there may be one-to-three sleepless nights ahead for the determined parent. Discontinuing the nighttime bottle is ultimately in the child's best interest and can eliminate the possibility of baby bottle tooth decay. Speak to your child's pediatrician for more information.

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