Early Childhood Caries


by Rebecca Maino

Do you find yourself sipping on a sweetened soft drink all day long?  Coffee with sugar or sweetened cream?    Does your 4 year-old child do the same thing with juice?  Maybe you think it’s okay to have your child sip on juice or milk all day long instead of soda pop.  “Sure,” you think to yourself, “both juice and milk are full of nutrients growing children need.”

If you and your child are daily sippers, please read on.  Children, teens, and adults who “sip all day long” on sugary liquids have a better chance of getting cavities.  In our world today, everything has been “super-sized” and made for families who are “on the go” so we’ll take those humungous drinks with us.  Also, children who have access to a bottle or cup of sugary liquid at night or nap time have a greater chance of getting cavities, too.   It’s the frequency and the length of time teeth are exposed to sweetened drinks that increase the chance of developing severe decay or cavities. Milk, formula, juice, power drinks, and soda pop can decay teeth if it stays in your child’s mouth during sleep or often throughout the day.  The bottle does have its place during an infant’s life, however children should be off of a bottle by their first birthday.  A child should not be put to bed for the night or nap time with a bottle containing anything but water.    

Offering water to your child to drink in between meals and at night can help reduce the risk of “ECC” or better known as “Early Childhood Caries.”  (You may have heard this called “baby bottle tooth decay” or “bottle rot” also.)  Putting your child to sleep with a bottle will increase the chance of cavities and ear infections.   Offer your child a stuffed animal, blanket, or favorite toy at bed time.  Read your child a good book.  Don’t start a habit that is hard to break!  Remember…..you are responsible for your child’s teeth!

Here are some tips to help prevent dental problems before they happen:

*Bottles are used to feed babies who can’t drink from a cup.

*Babies as young as 6 months old can learn to use a cup.

*Feed your baby only formula, breast milk, or water from a bottle.

*Offer a bottle or cup only at feeding times.

*Do not let your child carry around a bottle or a cup.

*Wipe your baby’s gums and teeth with a damp gauze or washcloth daily.

*Help brush your child’s teeth and gums until they are at least 7 years old!

*Use a pea-size dab or ‘smear’ of fluoride toothpaste on a soft toothbrush.

*Avoid between meal sweet snacks and drinks (you should too!)

*Avoid refined carbohydrates containing sugar and remember snacks such as chips and crackers can cause decay also.

*Chew on xylitol gum!  Xylitol can help reduce decay causing bacteria in the mouth.  Many of the sugar-free gums on the market contain xylitol.

Did you know that dental decay is an infectious disease that is transmissible from person to person?!  Be sure to take care of your own teeth, so that you don’t transmit decay causing bacteria to your child.  Visit your dentist regularly.  Prevent dental problems before they happen.  Remember, you are the best role model for your child.  If you make brushing and flossing an important part of your daily routine, your child will too.

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