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Raising an infant child poses many challenges to parents, but a lesser-known ailment that should be of concern is a condition known as baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD).

Also known as early childhood caries, this disease stems primarily from the exposure of sugary drinks or bacteria-contaminated pacifiers or bottle tops. Most often, according to the American Dental Association, these germs are passed from mother to child during feedings, though this transfer is essentially unavoidable. Cavity-causing organisms thrive in saliva, so its important for parents to clean bottle tops and pacifiers as often as possible.

While infant teeth are only temporary, whether or not they remain healthy can have long-term impacts on future oral hygiene. As teeth develop, parents should use a baby-sized toothbrush and use dentist-approved toothpastes to ensure cleanliness. This is especially important because fluoride deficiency is another major cause of BBTD.

Medical experts recommend two major steps to prevent BBTD from developing. The first involves ensuring that infants do not ingest liquids or foods with high sugar or salt content, as the nature of their consumption – through bottles – can lead to prolonged for growing teeth.

Similarly, parents are strongly cautioned against leaving pacifiers or other toys that can be chewed in the crib, as this can gradually wear away new enamel and create conditions for more spreading of bacteria.

Caregivers should also begin nutrition education as early as possible, because habit development occurs at a very young age and, if done correctly, can help children focus on keeping their pearly whites looking strong. Additionally, regular visits to the family dentist once they reach an appropriate age make maintaining oral health that much easier.