Infants can get cavities just like older children, teens,
and adults. However, nursing bottle cavities, or nursing bottle
syndrome, is caused by a particular set of circumstances.
Before discussing nursing bottle cavities, it is helpful first
to understand how cavities are formed. Cavities are caused
by acid attack on a susceptible tooth. The acids are formed
due to the interaction of plaque (bacteria) and fermentable
carbohydrates (sugar, for example). The decay process can
be represented in the following formula:
Prevention of decay therefore includes:
- making a susceptible tooth less susceptible (example:
use of fluorides and pit and fissure sealants),
- decreasing the bacterial count on the teeth (example:
brushing and flossing), and
- limiting the amount and frequency of fermentable carbohydrates
(example: reducing sugary between meal snacks).
Nursing bottle cavities occur when an infant is allowed to
fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth. If the bottle
contains a fermentable carbohydrate, (like pop, sugar water,
juice, or milk) and the liquid is allowed to pool around the
teeth, the bacteria that are present will form acid, which
eventually leads to decay.
Nursing bottle cavities usually form on upper front teeth
and back molars first. The lower front teeth can be protected
by the tongue, and decay in this area is seen more often in
very advanced cases.
To prevent nursing bottle cavities:
- do not leave a bottle in your child's mouth while he or
she is sleeping;
- begin brushing your child's teeth as soon as they come
into the mouth, or clean them by using a wet washcloth;
- begin regular dental examinations by the first birthday
or earlier if a problem is noted.