Nursing bottle syndrome, sometimes known as baby bottle tooth decay, is a common dental problem in little ones. Basically, the teeth develop extensive decay as a result of prolonged contact with sugars -- like those found in milk and juice. Nursing bottle syndrome can sabotage your baby's deciduous teeth, which he or she needs to eat during childhood and later guide the adult teeth into place. So, as a parent, it is important to take steps to prevent this condition.
Don't put your baby to bed with a bottle.
Nursing bottle syndrome is most common in children who are put to sleep with a bottle of juice or milk at night. The sugar in the juice or milk sits on the teeth all night long, feeding oral bacteria that release acids that cause tooth decay. If your child has trouble drifting off to sleep at night, give him or her a bottle of plain water, or better yet, a pacifier. Do not dip the pacifier in sugar or juice as parents sometimes do -- this can also lead to decay.
Keep the bottle clean.
Bacteria can build up on baby bottles over time. This is especially likely to happen if you use bottles with rubberized nipples with a lot of little nooks and crannies. Then, each time your baby drinks from the bottle, these bacteria are re-introduced to the mouth where they can secrete their decay-causing acids. To keep your bottles free of bacteria, always sanitize them after washing them. You can do this by placing them in some boiling water, or by rinsing them in a very weak bleach solution (2 teaspoons of bleach in a gallon of water). Don't worry -- the bleach will evaporate as the bottle dries, leaving it perfectly safe for your child.
Don't share food or utensils with your baby.
It's certainly tempting to use the same spoon to taste your little one's food before giving it to him or her. However, this practice transfers bacteria from your mouth to your baby's mouth, making decay more likely. Always use separate utensils from your child, and do not drink from your child's cups or bottles. Similarly, do not clean a pacifier with your own mouth as parents sometimes do.
To learn more about nursing bottle decay and caring for your little one's teeth, talk to a pediatric dentist in your area. The steps you take now to protect your child's teeth will set them up for a lifetime of good dental health.