Tooth Decay FAQ
Several specific types of bacteria that live in the mouth cause decay. Such bacteria use sugar to manufacture acids that dissolve the teeth and cause an infection in the tooth. This infection is called decay.
“Baby-bottle” tooth decay (now called “early childhood caries”), is related to several factors, such as sugar (carbohydrates), frequency of sugar exposure, and bacteria. Children who go to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice are more likely to get tooth decay because the teeth are constantly in contact with sugar. For the same reason, children who are breastfed “on-demand” are at a higher risk of developing decay. Frequent snacking during the day also increases the risk of decay.
Here are some tips to avoid early childhood caries:
- If necessary, put your child to bed with a bottle of plain water, not milk or juice.
- Stop nursing when your child is asleep..
- 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..
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). Your child would take these pills or drops every night, starting when your child is about 6 months old. Only give the prescribed amount of fluoride to your child, because too much fluoride can cause spots to develop on your child’s permanent teeth. Children should take these drops or pills until they are 14 to 16 years old (or until you move to an area with fluoride in the water).