Baby Bottle Tooth Decay : A Short Guide

It’s the truth. Baby teeth are whiter and prettier than normal teeth and they seem to fit the smaller oral cavity of children that much better. Considering that there are fewer teeth, it should have been easier to keep them clean and cavity-free, right? Wrong, tooth decay in very common in younger children and in fact, statistics state that baby caries or nursing decay is affects more than 70% of children worldwide. In most children, the decay is also referred to as Nursing Decay, Bottle Rot, or Sippy Cup Decay.

Causes of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Although the exact spread of baby bottle decay is not known, researchers have suggested that the decay is a transmissible condition. Mothers who harbor the causative bacteria Streptococcus mutans are more than likely to transmit the bacteria to their children. Mothers who have untreated cavities are more than likely to transmit the condition to their children resulting in a faster spreading condition. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also states that most mothers bottle feed their child with sweet liquids that also contain fermentable carbohydrates like juice, soda, cereal, etc. feeding the child at night or letting the baby fall asleep with the bottle in the mouth are the primary causes for this condition. The sweet liquid remains in the baby’s mouth causing baby cavities that spread faster and affect more teeth quickly.


It is entirely possible to prevent and control baby bottle cavities but parents have to enforce a feeding and cleaning regimen.

  • Bottle feedings or sippy cup feedings should be avoided at night. In case they are required, the baby should be given a sip of plain water to rinse out the sweet liquid from the mouth.
  • Do not allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle of juice or sweet fluid in their mouth. If possible, reduce the sugar intake in your child’s diet particular if cavities have already started.
  • Do not use a pacifier dipped in sweet liquid as it can create a habit or a dependence on sweet, sugary fluids.
  • If your child has got used to falling asleep with a bottle in the mouth, wean the child off the habit by filling the bottle with diluted feed for 2-3 days and then switch over to water completely.
  • The ADA now recommends the use of fluoridated water solutions, fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwashes at an early age. However, we recommend you talk to your dentist before you use fluoridated products in your baby.
  • Wipe your child’s mouth with a soft cloth after every feed. If possible, use a washcloth to clean the teeth as well. Once the baby is accustomed to this process, he or she will allow you to do it even if they are sleepy.
  • Schedule regular dental visits as soon as the baby’s first tooth comes up and make sure you visit the dentist every six months after that. Pay careful attention to new teeth as they come.

The best way to prevent baby bottle caries is to prevent your child from going to sleep with a baby bottle in his or her mouth. The disease or condition is completely preventable but it does require a little care and effort. Parents need to make sure that infant teeth are clean and clear of any baby milk solution before they go to sleep and this is more than enough to prevent the condition completely. Regular dental check-ups will also make sure that your baby’s teeth are clean and clear of cavities.