Early childhood caries, also known as baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD), is a preventable, infectious disease caused by certain types of bacteria that live in your child's mouth. These bacteria stick to tooth plaque and feed on the same foods that are common among young children; namely sugars (fruit, milk, formula, juice, etc.) and cooked starches (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.). About 5 minutes after your child eats or drinks, these bacteria begin producing acids as a byproduct of their digestion of that same food. The acids damage the tooth’s outer surface, resulting in caries or cavities.
Children who snack frequently, have a high level of bacteria, or go to sleep with a bottle containing anything other than water, are at higher risk of developing ECC.
Research shows that children are not born with the bacteria that cause decay and ECC. They are infected with it, usually at an early age, from their caregiver most often mom. If you have ever had a cavity, you carry the bacteria that cause cavities. Caregivers with untreated cavities have higher levels of bacteria in their mouth and are more likely to pass bacteria to their children.
If you are pregnant or caring for a baby or young child, visit your dentist for a check up and have cavities filled. Bacteria is passed through saliva and infection can occur before the child's first tooth appears. Avoid sharing spoons and forks with your child, and use water to clean a pacifier instead of cleaning it in your mouth.
Following proper feeding techniques can also help prevent ECC.
And, ensuring your child's teeth are cleaned regularly can help prevent ECC.
Yes. Parents can play an important role in the early detection of decay, which appears as white spots on your child's teeth. Lift your child’s lip to look for early signs of decay. If you see white spots, especially on your child’s front teeth, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist may want to apply fluoride for a few months to protect your child’s teeth from further damage.