CHOC Children's

Nursing Bottle Caries

What are nursing caries?

Nursing caries, or tooth decay, can be caused by children sleeping with bottles. This is also called baby bottle tooth decay. It is caused when a child goes to bed with a bottle filled with milk or juice - anything except water. It usually affects children between the ages of one and two years. Breastfed infants who fall asleep while breastfeeding are also at risk.

What are the symptoms of nursing caries?

The following are the most common symptoms of nursing caries. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • white spots on the teeth
  • early development of cavities ( brown areas on the tooth that lead to tooth destruction)—first seen on the back or palate side of the upper front incisors or baby teeth. The nipple deposits the milk there and it is retained there when the infant falls asleep. The enamel starts to break down and cavities occur.

How can I prevent nursing caries?

The following are suggestions you can follow to help prevent nursing caries:

  • Do not allow your child to go to bed with a bottle filled with anything but water.
  • Wean your child from the bottle in a timely manner.
  • Begin good early mouth care of the gums and teeth.
  • Give fluoride supplementation, as recommended by your child's physician.
  • Have early dental visits for your child - at 12 months old or when the first tooth comes in.

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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