Baby bottles can contribute to tooth decay. In fact, there are specific terms for when it happens, like nursing bottle syndrome and early childhood caries. However, it's not strictly the fault of the bottle; it has more to do with how the bottle keeps sugar in constant contact with your child's teeth.
So, It's the Sugar's Fault?
It's not exactly the sugar's fault. It takes both sugar and bacteria. In this case, the milk, formula, or juice provides the sugar that helps the bacteria. Here's how that works.
1. Bacteria builds up naturally in the mouth.
2. Sugar from juice or milk contacts that bacteria and creates acid.
3. The acid eats at tooth enamel and gums.
Now, your child has a natural defense for this. All of that drooling serves the purpose of washing out some of that acid. Saliva helps to digest sugars and even to clean the teeth a little.
How the Bottle Facilitates the Process
When your child has a bottle, he or she holds it in their mouth for extended periods of time. During that time, they are introducing more and more sugar to the bacteria in their mouth. The decay happens because of the constant contact of the drink, not just what they drink. Decay can be a major problem if you let the child keep a bottle of milk or juice when sleeping or napping. That saliva production slows down during sleep, so there's nothing helping the child stave off the sugar.
What You Can Do About It?
So, you see that it's not technically the bottle, but the lengthy exposure to sweets. But don't sweat it, there's a ton of things you can do to combat this.
- Make sure your child finishes the bottle before naps and bed
- Avoid too much sugar
- Graduate your child to a cup
- Practice regular brushing (or wipe the gums with a damp cloth after feeding)
- Do not dip pacifiers into sugar, honey, or anything sweet
- Do not give your child soft drinks
- Make sure your child gets fluoride
For some of these things, you should ask your pediatric dentistry office or your family dentist about how best go about it. You don't have to hover over your child in a constant state of worry. It's impossible to avoid sugar intake and bacteria growth. But it's possible to mitigate these things and make sure your child's teeth stay healthy and strong.