Early Childhood Caries: Identifying Common Causes And Prevention Mechanisms

Early childhood caries, also known as baby bottle tooth decay, is a disease where severe teeth decay is present in infants or young children. Surprisingly, early childhood caries can begin to emerge when an infant is about 6 months old,  and its prevalence can be as high as 70% in minority populations, even in the U.S. This article will explore common etiology of early childhood caries, and also prevention mechanisms that have been recommended by health experts.

Common Causes to Be Aware Of

If you are concerned that your child may be susceptible to getting early childhood caries, you should familiarize yourself with the common causes. Although the etiology of early childhood caries is multifactorial, it has been well-established. Some of the common causes that early childhood caries is associated with include:

  • microbiological risk factors. The two main cariogenic microorganisms that are associated with early childhood caries include Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus. These microorganisms produce acid that causes tooth structures to dissolve when there are fermentable carbohydrates, like sucrose and fructose, present. When there is an abundance of these two microorganisms in the environment, a large abundance will become present in the oral environment of the children; thus, resulting in a higher chance of early childhood caries developing
  • feeding practice. Inappropriate bottle-feeding techniques and practices have been also highly correlated with the development of early childhood caries. Recent studies have indicated that children are more likely to develop early childhood caries when bottle feeding is used as a substitute for a pacifier at night in children over the ages of 1 years old and when bottle feeding is the to-go method during the day
  • presence of sugars in diet. Early childhood caries is not prominent in countries where the consumption of free sugars is relatively low - a daily intake of a maximum of 40 to 55 grams per person.

Prevention Mechanisms to Implement     

By becoming familiar with the common causes above, you will be able to determine whether early childhood caries is a disease that you should be concerned about. If you have determined that your child resides in an environment that makes him or her vulnerable to developing early childhood caries, here's what you can do:

  • wipe your infant's gum with a clean, wet gauze pad or washcloth every time after they have consumed a meal
  • take your infants and children for regular dental visits
  • brush your infant's teeth as soon as the first tooth emerges using fluoridated toothpaste. Most professionals recommend brushing your child's teeth once in the morning, and once in the evening. Once your child is old enough, teach him or her how to brush his or her teeth
  • avoid breastfeeding and bottle feeding for prolonged periods of time
  • do not put your infant to sleep with a bottle of milk, fruit juice, formula, or sugars dissolved in water
  • encourage toddlers and young children to drink water from Sippy cups as soon as possible
  • minimize saliva-sharing activities between the infants or the children and their caregivers
  • teach toddlers and young children how to make smart and healthy nutritional choices. It is best to avoid consuming foods with a high concentration of sugars
  • attempt to use more fluoridated oral products that will help strengthen teeth structures


Early childhood caries can be a horrible disease to deal with, especially for infants and young children. As a parent, it is important that you familiarize yourself with whether your children are growing up in an environment that makes them vulnerable to the disease. Implement prevention mechanisms early on in order to ensure that the likelihood of early childhood caries is greatly minimized. 

For more information, contact a local dentist, or visit http://www.claremontdentalinstitute.com.