Bottles and pacifiers are a necessary part of many children’s lives, but they can also do a lot of harm to your child’s teeth if used incorrectly. When are bottles and pacifiers safe to use, and when will they cause harm to your child’s teeth?

Here’s a look at a few of the dangers of overuse, and how to prevent them.

Tooth Decay

Excessive bottle use can cause early tooth decay in children, sometimes referred to as early childhood caries. The most common cause is when children are frequently put to bed with a bottle, or even allowed to suck on a bottle or a sippy cup continuously throughout the day. The result is worse when children are given sugary drinks in their bottle or sippy cup, but even just milk, breast milk, or formula can trigger decay. Sipping on a bottle or cup continuously means sustained bacteria activity, which leads to rapid tooth decay.

Sharing saliva with a baby also causes tooth decay, by introducing cavity-causing bacteria into the child’s mouth. This typically happens when a mother tastes her baby’s food using the same spoon she feeds with, or when she uses her saliva to “clean” a pacifier or bottle’s nipple.

Remember, these teeth need to last children a while, since some of them stay in place until adolescence, so it’s important to start taking good care of your child’s right away.

Alignment Issues with Baby Teeth

Prolonged bottle or pacifier use can also cause issues with tooth alignment. In general, bottle feeding, pacifier use, or thumb sucking is fine until two years of age. In the first two years of life, the child is growing and changing fast enough that most issues should clear up within about six months of stopping.

Gables Sedation Dentistry - Baby Teeth Decay from Bottles Infographic

After the child turns two, however, excessive sucking can cause permanent changes to the shape of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth within it. For instance, the top front teeth may begin to slant outward, while the lower front teeth slant inward to match them. The roof of the mouth may be narrower, and the top and bottom teeth may not match up properly for chewing.

7 Tips for Early Childhood Tooth Care

You can avoid many of the problems caused by excessive bottle feeding and pacifier use by taking a few precautions.

  1. Transition babies and toddlers away from bottles and pacifiers no later than age two.
  2. Put only milk or water in bottles and sippy cups – no sugary drinks.
  3. Don’t dip pacifiers in sugar or honey.
  4. Avoid sharing saliva with your baby.
  5. Have your baby or toddler finish their bottle or sippy cup before bedtime, so they don’t take it to bed.
  6. Gently wipe your infant’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth twice a day, and start brushing around age one.
  7. Start off on the right foot by scheduling an appointment with your dentist once your infant’s teeth start coming in.

Gables Sedation & Family Dentistry

At Gables Sedation & Family Dentistry, we know that baby teeth won’t last forever; but, healthy habits do. Teaching children to take care of their teeth starts early; by creating habits that will last their whole lives. By being aware of the dangers of pacifiers and baby bottles, and taking care to teach your child healthy habits, you can help foster lifelong dental health.

If you have questions about dental care for your children, please contact us!