What is Early Child Caries?

Teeth Are Targets For Cavities

As soon as teeth erupt, they are susceptible to decay.

Early childhood caries, also known as "baby bottle tooth decay,” can appear as a subtle white streak near the gumline, so it may be difficult for you to recognize.

But caries can soon destroy your child’s teeth and leave decayed brown or black stumps.

Prolonged Exposure To Sweet Liquids Can Cause Caries

Early childhood caries is caused by your child’s frequent and prolonged exposure to sweet liquids. Children who fall asleep with a bottle are especially at risk.

Sweet liquids include formula, fruit juice, soda, or any other liquid containing sugar, and cow’s milk. Breast milk is best for your child, but sleeping with a bottle of breast milk can also cause damage.

Adults Pass Caries To Babies

Although the main culprit in early childhood caries is your child’s prolonged exposure to sweet liquids, an adult who has cavities, or who is at high risk for decay, will pass cavity-causing bacteria to the child. Caries is an infectious disease that is passed from caregiver to child while the child is an infant.

Caries Is Preventable

You can help prevent early childhood caries:

  • Wipe your child’s teeth and gums with a clean, damp cloth after each feeding.
  • If your child must sleep with a bottle, fill it only with water.
  • Brush your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • Children should use only a thin smear of fluoride toothpaste until they are old enough not to swallow it.
  • Floss as soon as two teeth are touching.
  • Reduce your own risk of decay.


Early childhood caries can be painful and harmful to your child’s normal development. It can also create dental problems for years to come.

That is why it is important that your child have the first dental appointment by the first birthday so we can help your child have a lifetime of healthy smiles.

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