Early Childhood Caries (ECC) – Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Even though baby teeth are temporary, they play an important role in the oral health of your child.  Baby teeth help your child speak properly and chew food thoroughly.  Baby teeth also reserve space in the mouth for the adult teeth to come through.  Baby teeth (also called deciduous teeth or milk teeth) start to appear at 6 months of age.  They will continue to come through until your child is around 33 months old.  Children don’t lose all of their baby teeth until they are around 12 years old.  Therefore, their baby teeth need to be healthy and remain in the mouth for a number of years before they are ready to fall out naturally.

What Causes Early Childhood Caries?

Baby bottle tooth decay can occur on any of the baby teeth but it is most common on the upper front teeth.  Some of the causes of early childhood caries are:

  • Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, Early Childhood CariesPutting your child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice.  Only putting your child to bed with a bottle of water can significantly reduce the risk of baby bottle tooth decay.
  • Frequent night time bottle-feeding or breastfeeding past 12 months of age.
  • Frequently snacking or grazing on high-sugar foods.
  • Inadequate tooth brushing.
  • Dry mouth or mouth breathing.

How Can I Prevent Early Childhood Caries?

There are a number of ways to prevent your child from developing early childhood caries, including the following:

  • Do not dip your child’s dummy in anything sweet, such as honey, maple syrup, condensed milk, or jam.  Sweet foods can cause decay in children just the same as they can in adults.
  • Only fill your child’s bottle with formula, milk, breast milk or water.  Do not place juice, soft drinks or cordial in the bottle.
  • Clean your child’s teeth before they go to bed using a children’s toothbrush.
  • Give your child a clean dummy or a bottle of plain water if they like to suck on something while settling down for sleep.
  • Teach your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar your child consumes, particularly in between meals.
  • Regular visits to the dentist to check the general health of your child’s mouth and for signs of early childhood caries.


Healthy baby teeth are important to your child’s health.  They need to be looked after to prevent them from developing decay and causing future problems with the adult teeth.  Taking good care of your child’s teeth now can also establish good habits that will last a lifetime.