Parents are often surprised when their babies are diagnosed with dental decay. They are surprised because their babies haven’t eaten candy or other sugary treats yet.

So why do their infants or young children already have dental decay?

Tooth decay can begin as soon as teeth start coming in. This is because their teeth have been in continual contact with sugary liquids for extended periods of time. These liquids include fruit juices, milk, soda and other sweetened liquids.

How do liquids cause dental decay?

“People worry about sugary foods, but constant exposure to sugary liquids such as fruit juice, soda and sports drinks are equally as harmful to the teeth,” said Eric M. Soper, DMD and private practitioner of Pediatric Dental Center. “That’s because just like with food, the bacteria in the mouth will feed on the sugar from these drinks. The bacteria release acids that can attack teeth and cause cavities and tooth decay.”

How is milk creating dental decay also known as “baby bottle tooth decay?”

“Calcium found in milk is important to building healthy teeth and bones,” said Dr. Soper. “However, when given at bed time, or if allowed to drink all day as a soothing mechanism, the natural sugars found in milk sit on the infant’s teeth and increase the acidity level that attack teeth and cause cavities.”

Follow these five simple steps to decrease the risk of preventing dental decay from liquids.

Do not put your child to bed with a bottle.
Do not use the bottle as a pacifier.
Do not dip the pacifier in sugar or honey or put it in your mouth before giving it to your child. (A future post will explain how the cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth can be passed to your baby.)
Sippy cups should only be used until the child’s first birthday. After that, encourage your child to drink from a small open cup.
Offer milk or fruit juice at meal times and water in between meals. During meals, the mouth makes more saliva to help rinse out food particles.