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Can Baby Bottles Cause Cavities?

There’s a heavy burden that falls on a new parent’s shoulders. You want the best for your kids. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s that desire to provide the best that can send you spiraling down into sleepless nights and anxiety. Your child’s oral health, in particular, is a prime target for this. You could be cleaning your child’s gums as meticulously as you can. But once their teeth emerge, boom—tooth decay. Unfortunately, aside from bacteria colonies, decay also depends on how much sugars are left over for bacteria to feast on. And for the most part, it might come from baby bottle tooth decay.

But what is baby bottle tooth decay? As the name suggests, it’s tooth decay caused by feeding on a bottle. But how is this even possible? And what risks make it more likely?

Baby bottles pool their contents into your child’s mouth

To understand why bottle-fed kids are more likely to get tooth decay than breastfed kids are, let’s look at their mechanics. Breastfed babies need to go through a lot of things that need to happen before they get their milk. For one, they need to find a healthy breast to latch onto. For another, you need to make sure that the baby attaches to the chest correctly. It’s only when the baby sucks that they can get their milk. And the milk usually goes straight down their throats.

In contrast, bottles tend to drip down their contents into your baby’s mouth. Bottles may prevent some amount of leakage from occurring, but it cannot stop all instances of it. If your baby leaves the bottle in their mouth for an extended period, the milk will eventually pool into their mouths. If your children have teeth by this time, it’s akin to giving their teeth a milk bath. But in this case, it’s more damaging than it is luxurious.  

When baby teeth are left in the formula for a long time, they’re basically settling in a sea of sugar. This sugar, of course, is ripe for bacteria to exploit. They take the sugars from the milk and transform it into acid, which eats at your child’s enamel. And because their enamel is still thin at that stage, they deteriorate more quickly.

Moral of the story? Don’t let any sugars stay on your child’s teeth for too long. Nor let their teeth bath in them.  

Your child can take the bottle anytime, anywhere

How long your child’s teeth are bathed in these sugars is one thing. But another important consideration is how many times this happens. While a breastfed child isn’t invincible to getting milk leftover their teeth, the fact that they need to have a breast available to take in the milk makes this all the less likely. 

In contrast, a bottle-fed child can take their bottle anywhere they want. Sometimes, the bottle can serve as a comfort item of sorts during their early years. Because of this, the frequency of feeding and their susceptibility to tooth decay goes up.

All is not too late, however, for parents of bottle-fed babies. With the right precautions in place, your child may be able to avoid instances of tooth decay. Just keep an eye on how much—and how often—they feed. And maybe replace their formula with water now and then. 

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