Baby bottle syndrome: Can babies get cavities?

Baby bottle syndrome: Can babies get cavities?

You need to wipe your baby's mouth after drinking milk


Sometimes, there is nothing like a nice bottle of milk to fill your child's stomach before bed. The baby falls asleep with less of a fuss and maybe even stays asleep longer. However, putting your baby with a bottle risks cavities and permanent damage to the teeth. 

Baby bottle syndrome 

The appearance of cavities up to the age of five is known as Early Childhood Caries (ECC), or Baby Bottle Syndrome. Baby bottle syndrome occurs when milk or juice is used as a sleep aid at bedtime (or in between naps). While the child sleeps with a full tummy, his/ her mouth is also full of natural sugars that can pool in the infant's gums or stick to their teeth and cause dental caries (cavities). 

What causes the cavities? 

Saliva helps neutralize the acid that forms when sugars sit on teeth too long.During sleep, saliva production is decreased leaving sugar stuck in the baby's mouth longer. So the acid remains and can decay teeth and cause cavities. 

Similarly, saliva can help wash away the residue of milk or juice and prevent bacteria from feeding off of it. The increase of bacteria on the teeth can also damage the infant's teeth. 

Worse: if Baby Bottle Syndrome is not treated, a child's future adult teeth can also be damaged. Therefore, it is important to protect your child's teeth even if they are just the baby teeth.

Baby bottle syndrome

How to protect against baby bottle syndrome 

It is important to maintain good hygiene habits for your baby's mouth. If (s)he is given a bottle before bed, make sure to wipe his/her gums with a clean washcloth or gauze to remove any residue. Similarly, if your baby has a couple of teeth erupting, start brushing them with a toothbrush (no toothpaste). Once your child has all of his/ her teeth, help brushing and flossing all of his/ her teeth at least twice a day. If your child is old enough, have your child drink some water after the milk or juice to help keep the mouth rinsed in between brushes. 

Bottom line

The natural sugars found in milk and juice can cause cavities in children's mouths if not properly wiped/ brushed before bed or naps.