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Stephen Fox D.M.D. | Member American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Baby Bottle

What causes tooth decay?

Several specific types of bacteria that live in the mouth and on teeth cause decay. When sugar is consumed, the bacteria use the sugar and then manufacture acids that dissolve the teeth and cause an infection in the tooth. This infection is called decay.

What is "baby-bottle" tooth decay?

Babies who go to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice are more likely to get tooth decay. Because the sugar in formula, milk or juice stays in contact with the teeth for a long time during the night, the teeth can decay quickly.

Here are some tips to avoid baby-bottle tooth decay:

  • If you have to put your child to bed with a bottle, only use plain water, not milk or juice.
  • Stop nursing when your child is asleep or has stopped sucking on the bottle.
  • Try not to let your child walk around using a bottle of milk or juice as a pacifier.
  • Start to teach your child to drink from a cup at about 6 months of age. Plan to stop using a bottle by 12 to 14 months at the latest.
  • Don't dip your child's pacifier in honey or sugar.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride helps make teeth strong and prevents tooth decay. If the water where you live does not have enough fluoride, your doctor may prescribe fluoride supplements (fluoride drops or pills). You would give these drops or pills every day, starting when your child is about 6 months old. Only give as much as the directions say to use, because too much fluoride can cause spots on your child's teeth. Also, be sure to call your local water authority and ask if your water is fluoridated. If it is, tell your dentist or Pediatric Dentist so that your child is not being over fluoridated. Children should take these drops or pills until they are 12 to 16 years old (or until you move to an area with fluoride in the water).