Giving an infant a sugary drink at nap time can be harmful for oral health and cause tooth decay. This condition is known as ‘baby bottle tooth decay’. One of the reasons for this decay is that during sleep the flow of saliva decreases leading to pooling of the liquid around the child’s teeth for an extended period of time. The sugars in these drinks feed to the bacteria present in mouth, which produce acids in return. After numerous attacks of this acid on teeth, tooth decay begins.
If not treated early, this decay can progress leading to pain and infection and may necessitate removal of teeth. Early loss of teeth has many long term consequences on a child. He/she may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, or crooked permanent teeth.
Not just bottle feeding, this condition may also occur in kids who are breast fed for a very long time or who use pacifiers dipped in honey or syrup.
How to prevent???
- Do not encourage breast/bottle feeding at nap time.
- If a bottle is required for comforting the kid during sleep, fill it with only water. Do not add any sugar or solid. However use of bottle after 12 months of age is generally not recommended.
- Encourage use of cup or beaker as soon as possible, especially along with eruption of first tooth. However, do not leave the kid sipping from a bottle/cup for long periods.
- If pacifiers are given, do not dip them in honey or syrup.
- For the best nutritional/dietary habits advice, visit your pediatric dentist.