You may hear other names for this health problem, such as baby bottle decay or early childhood caries. Although the dental health of most Ontario children has improved dramatically over the past few decades, dentists are increasingly concerned about a condition known as "early childhood tooth decay". This problem is easily recognized because it affects the teeth of very young children and infants and is evident on the front teeth. The front teeth, or incisors, are the most resistant to decay, so cavities on these teeth indicate a serious problem.
Even milk contains sugar
Baby bottle decay is caused by continued exposure of the teeth to sugar-containing fluids. Typically, the bottle or sippy cup is left with the child who may continue to drink- even though no longer hungry. The bottle is left with the child throughout the night and acts as a pacifier.
Although most parents recognize the danger to dental health of excessive exposure to sugared liquids such as soda pop, many do not realize that milk and juice also contains natural sugars. Although less hazardous than artificially sweetened liquids, prolonged exposure to milk and fruit sugars will also cause widespread decay. This type of decay can occur with breastfed children, but is rare.
Bed and bottle don't mix
For that reason, dentists and nutritionists recommend that exposure to sugar-containing liquids be limited and that through-the-night bottles be either eliminated or filled with water.
Dentists are primarily concerned because the treatment of this condition often requires extensive dental procedures that must be done under a general anaesthetic.
In addition to restricting bottle use to feeding time, parents should also clean their young children's teeth on a daily basis using a clean piece of cloth or small toothbrush and a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste (size of a grain of rice).