While your child may fall asleep more easily with the comfort of a bottle or sippy cup, this could be damaging to their oral health. Sending your child to bed with a bottle of formula, milk, or juice is a primary cause of tooth decay in infants and young children.
Tooth Decay in Babies
Bacteria cause tooth decay, but babies are not born with bacteria in their mouths. Bacteria are introduced by a primary caregiver who passes on his or her saliva to the child. For example, if a parent shares a spoon with their baby, they can unknowingly pass cavity-causing bacteria on to the child. Parents can also pass on these germs by testing foods before feeding it to babies, cleaning off a pacifier in their mouth instead of with water, and through any other activity where saliva is shared.
The bacteria in a baby’s mouth needs food to live, and if there is a constant source of sugary liquids in his or her mouth, bacteria will thrive. Acid is a byproduct of bacteria breaking down sugars. The acid attacks the child’s teeth, eating into the enamel and causing decay.
Ways to Prevent Tooth Decay
One of the most effective ways to prevent the development of caries is to avoid letting your baby drink any liquid other than water at night while falling asleep. Instead, nurse or provide your child with a bottle of milk prior to bedtime. It is important to keep sugary liquids to a minimum.
You can use a pacifier instead of a bottle or sippy cup for nighttime or naptime comfort. Ensure that the pacifier is clean and germ-free. Never dip your child’s pacifier in sugar-based products like juice or honey.