It’s completely natural to feed your infant with a bottle in the early stages of development. While bottles are easy to use and comforting for babies, they are also one of the leading causes of tooth decay in children.
The good news is, you don’t have to stop using baby bottles altogether to avoid the risk of tooth decay. Instead, take these preventative measures to ensure that your child will have healthy oral development in the earliest stages of childhood.
The cause of baby bottle tooth decay, or “nursing bottle mouth” is due to frequent exposure to sugary liquids for long periods of time, which forms harmful plaque in the mouth. It makes sense; babies and toddlers are often seen running around with bottles of milk, formula and juice and hate to part ways with their beloved bottle at the end of the day.
Remember: baby bottles are not pacifiers. Some parents allow their infants to carry a bottle around just to satisfy their need for an object to chew on. However, this opens the door for longer periods of exposure to sugar. Try to switch out the bottle for a pacifier after mealtime.
Avoid sending your child to bed with his bottle. It’s easy to get into the habit of putting your baby to sleep with a warm bottle of milk, but it will result in serious consequences. Not only does it increase the amount of exposure to sugary liquids, but it will also allow bacteria to form plaque in the mouth overnight. Your child’s oral environment should have plenty of time to recover from a day’s worth of exposure to sugar. When you send your child to bed with a bottle, you’re essentially undoing all nighttime teeth cleaning rituals that you just completed.
Water is good for your baby and his oral development. If your child is attached to his bottle, it would helpful to occasionally replace a bottle full of milk with water instead. It rinses bacteria from the mouth and doesn’t contain sugar that will cause plaque formation. This will also work if you must send your baby to bed with a bottle.
Try to teach your child to drink from a cup around 6 months of age. This will help break the habit of keeping the bottle in his mouth for prolonged periods of time. Encourage your child to stop using a bottle completely by 12-14 months. It may seem like a difficult task at first, but it is worth it to keep you baby’s oral development on a healthy track!