What causes tooth decay?

A thin, sticky, colorless film of bacteria called plaque forms on your teeth.  The bacteria in the plaque produce acid that can attack tooth enamel.  When sugary food or drinks remain in the mouth after eating or drinking, the bacteria have more time to produce decay-causing acid.

What is baby bottle tooth decay or Early childhood caries (cavities)?

Baby bottle tooth decay is a condition that can destroy primary teeth of an infant or young child.  It occurs when the child’s teeth are frequently exposed to sugary drinks for long periods of time.  These drinks include milk (even breast milk), formula, fruit juice, and other sweetened liquids.  Tooth decay can begin as soon as a tooth erupts.  Decay in the primary teeth can cause pain and can harm the erupting teeth if not treated.

What can I do to keep my baby’s teeth healthy?

  • Parents or caregivers need to take an active role in caring for their baby’s teeth.  Brush your baby’s teeth in the morning and before bedtime.  After you brush your baby’s teeth, he or she should have nothing to eat or drink except water. 
  • Never allow your baby or toddler to fall asleep with a bottle that contains milk, formula, juice, sweetend liquids, or a pacifier dipped in sugar or honey.  Even diluted drinks can be damaging.
  • Start oral care early.  Wipe baby’s gums with guaze or a clean cloths after each feeding.  Begin brushing your child’s teeth with water as soon as it appears.  We do not recommend using a fluoride toothpaste until you can be sure your child is not swallowing the toothpaste.
  • To reduce the chances of tooth decay, children should be encouraged to drink from a cup and off of the bottle by their first birthday.
  • Schedule your child’s first dental exam by the age of 1. 
  • Be sure to share information with caregivers to prevent baby bottle tooth decay.


Source: American Dental Association

Pediatric Dental Center
Warren, MI
Dr. Shah, Dr. O’Riordan