Early Childhood Tooth Decay

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Several specific types of bacteria that live on the teeth cause decay. When sugar or carbohydrates are consumed, the bacteria use the sugar to manufacture acids that dissolve the teeth and cause an infection in the tooth. This infection is called decay or cavities.

What Is Early Childhood Tooth Decay?

Babies who go to bed with milk, formula, or juice are more likely to get tooth decay. Because the sugar in formula, milk, or juice stays in contact with the teeth for a long time during the night, the teeth can decay quickly.

Some Tips To Avoid Early Childhood Tooth Decay

  • Do not put your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice.
  • If you are still nursing at night when your child has their teeth in, clean the teeth afterwards.
  • Only offer water between meals, do not let them walk around with a sippy cup of milk or juice between meals.
  • Start to teach your child to drink from a cup at about six 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.
  • Avoid sharing utensils or cups if a parent or caregiver has untreated cavities because cavity causing bacteria can be transferred to the child’s mouth.

What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that helps make teeth strong and prevents tooth decay.  Be sure to call your local water authority and ask if your water is fluoridated or send a sample of your well water in for testing. If you do not have an adequate amount of fluoride in your water, talk to your dentist about your options.  Make sure you are getting enough topical fluoride (on the surface of your teeth) with toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments that your dentist applies.