Sugary Liquids’ Effect on Baby’s Gums and Teeth

As parents we try to do everything we can to make sure our baby is healthy and happy.  But you may be unaware of one seemingly common practice that could seriously endanger your child’s dental health.  Over exposure to sweetened liquids, through a baby bottle, is a risk factor for early childhood caries, known commonly as “baby bottle tooth decay.  Even the most informed parents may not be aware that one of the healthiest liquids found in baby bottle–milk—can cause tooth decay.  This develops when sugary liquids are given and are left clinging to an infant’s teeth for long periods.  Milk, formula, and fruit juice contain sugar.  Bacteria in the mouth feed off of this sugar and produce acids that attack the teeth leading to decay.

But it’s not just what you put in the bottle that causes decay. It is also how often and for how long the teeth are exposed.  Every time your child drinks a sweetened beverage, the acids attack the teeth for 20 minutes or more, says the American Dental Association. Letting a child fall asleep while sucking on a bottle is especially harmful, as the sugary liquid can have hours to make contact with bacteria in the mouth. 
What’s more, many people don’t realize that a baby’s teeth can start to decay soon after they first appear in the mouth, and by the time the decay is noticed it may be too late to save the teeth.

Some ways to help prevent this from happening:

  • After each feeding wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad.  Begin brushing your child’s teeth with a soft child-sized toothbrush when the first tooth erupts and clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless.  Begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, usually by age 2-21/2.


  • Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids.  If you must put your baby down with a bottle, fill it with water only


  • Ask your dentist about fluoride.


  • We usually recommend the first dental appointment around age 3.

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