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What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Many parents are surprised to find that baby teeth are at risk for decay as they begin to erupt. This eruption usually happens around 6 months old, but can happen earlier.  Also called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, tooth decay in babies and toddlers usually starts in the upper front teeth.  Often, the decay goes unnoticed and gets to the point where the tooth cannot be saved.   

Parents should know that Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is preventable.  It is important to keep your child’s teeth clean, monitor their condition, and get them to a pediatric dentist when that first tooth appears. Here are some other tips to help you avoid tooth decay in your infant or toddler.     

Keeping Your Little One’s Teeth Clean 

  • A few days after birth, begin to wipe their gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.   
  • Once they have teeth that erupt, gently brush your child’s teeth twice each day with a children’s toothbrush and rice grain-sized drop of fluoride toothpaste. When they reach the age of 3, you can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. 
  • Once they have two teeth that touch, begin to clean between their teeth each day. 
  • Make sure you supervise your child as they brush their teeth, reminding them not to swallow the toothpaste.


Teething happens when your baby’s primary teeth begin to break through their gums.  This eruption usually happens around 6 months, but can happen earlier.  Within the first few years of their life, all 20 teeth will erupt resulting in a full set of primary teeth by 3 years old.   

Sleeplessness, fussiness, and irritability, and loss of appetite usually accompany teething.  If fever or diarrhea occurs, please contact their pediatrician as they are not common symptoms of teething. 

Their First Dental Visit 

Some find it surprising to hear of a child having their first dental visit at or before the age of 1. But the ADA recommends that their first dental visit happens within six months of the appearance of their first tooth or by their first birthday, whichever comes first.  Taking them to their regular dental appointments helps them to develop healthy habits and get used to dental exams and cleanings. 

While the first visit gives the dental professional a chance to examine your child’s mouth, it is also the opportunity to make their relationship with their dentist a positive one. To ensure a pleasant experience: 

  • Make your child’s appointment at a time when they are likely to be well-rested and cooperative. 
  • Speak with them about their first visit and be positive when you speak about dental care and the dentist’s office. 
  • Never use dental visits as a punishment.
  • Never bribe them to visit the dentist office.

Upon your first visit, your pediatric dentist will: 

  • Examine your child’s mouth, looking for any injuries, cavities, or other problems.
  • Clean their teeth and advise you on how to keep them clean.
  • They will discuss teething, pacifiers, and thumb sucking habits.
  • Discuss any treatment needed and scheduled their next visit.

The Importance of Fluoride 

Fluoride occurs naturally in water sources and is added to the tap water of some communities.  The mineral that helps enamel resist decay is also in some toothpastes and mouthwashes.  Inadequate amounts of fluoride can increase the risk of tooth decay. Call your local or state health department or water supplies to find out if your tap water contains fluoride. Your dentist can help you determine your child’s fluoride needs and can recommend a fluoride supplement if needed. 

The Dangers of Pacifiers 

Infants and toddlers that suck their thumbs or use pacifiers are at a greater risk of middle ear infections and dental problems. Tooth decay can also occur due to cavity-causing bacteria that can transfer from mother to child through saliva.   

Make your Appointment Today 

It is never too early to start seeing a pediatric dentist for your child, especially if you are worried about Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Contact your closest Cumberland Pediatric Dentist office to set up your appointment today!