Tooth decay in infants and very young children is often referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. Baby bottle tooth decay happens when sweetened liquids or those with natural sugars (like milk, formula, and fruit juice) cling to an infant’s teeth for a long time. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth.
At risk are children whose pacifiers are frequently dipped in sugar or syrup. Giving an infant a sugary drink at nap time or nighttime is particularly harmful because the flow of saliva decreases during sleep.
Although baby bottle tooth decay typically happens in the upper front teeth, other teeth may also be affected. Baby teeth are placeholders for the adult teeth. If baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, pain and infection can result. Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed.
If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth, and damaged adult teeth. In addition, the chances that adult teeth will end up being crooked are greatly increased.
The good news is that implementing good oral hygiene at an early age can prevent tooth decay.