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WEBSITE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Interim Secretary of Health

Tooth decay in babies and young children

Early childhood caries (ECC), formerly called "baby bottle tooth decay" or "nursing bottle syndrome", is tooth decay that occurs in babies or young children. It is caused by the sugars contained in breast milk, formula, cow's milk, fruit juice, Kool-aid®, fruit drinks, and soda pop. If these drinks stay on the teeth for long periods of time, the sugar starts to decay the tooth. To protect your baby’s teeth from ECC:

  • Clean baby’s teeth and gums daily with a wash cloth on your finger or with a small soft toothbrush.

  • “Lift the Lip” at least once a month to take a look at all of the teeth. Whitish lines along the gum line could mean that decay has already started.

  • Introduce liquids by cup before 6 months of age.

  • Wean your baby from the bottle by 12 months of age.

  • Don’t give anything other than water in a bottle or sippy cup at sleep times.

  • Don’t give frequent sweet, sticky snacks, sugary drinks, and juices between meals.

  • Parents should keep their own mouths healthy to delay or prevent the transmission of the decay causing Streptococcus mutans bacteria to their child.
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