Expert Outlines Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Nursing Bottle Caries in Children

Discover How Prolonged Exposure to Sugary Liquids During Sleep or Naps Contributes to Nursing Bottle Caries in Young Children and Learn About Its Symptoms

Nursing Bottle Caries In Children: Expert Lists Its Symptoms, Causes And Treatment
Nursing Bottle Caries In Children: Expert Lists Its Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Is your child falling asleep with a milk-filled bottle in their mouth? It’s crucial to avoid this prolonged exposure to sugary liquids during sleep or nap time, as it can lead to a condition known as nursing bottle caries. Also called baby bottle tooth decay or early childhood caries, this condition involves severe decay in the primary teeth of infants or toddlers. We consulted with Lt Gen Dr. Vimal Arora, Chief Clinical Officer at Clove Dental, who discussed the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition.

Expert Outlines Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Nursing Bottle Caries in Children


Nursing bottle caries primarily result from extended exposure of the teeth to sugary liquids like milk, juice, or sweetened beverages. This exposure often occurs due to prolonged use of nursing bottles or sippy cups. “This condition indicates a worrying trend in pediatric dental health. Its consequences extend beyond immediate dental problems, potentially impacting a child’s overall health and development,” emphasized Lt Gen Dr. Arora.

Factors Leading to Nursing Bottle Syndrome

Research conducted by The Conversation indicates that certain brands of formula milk contain twice as much sugar per serving compared to a glass of soda. The sugar content in popular infant formula brands ranges from approximately 7g/100mL to higher concentrations if mixed with sweeteners. Infants typically consume milk multiple times a day, with an average intake of 600-800 mL.

Lt Gen Dr Arora highlighted that with an average sugar content of 7g/100mL (which could be higher depending on the specific formula), infants in India could be consuming 42-56 grams of sugar daily if they consume 600-800 mL of milk daily.

The concern arises because frequent exposure to sugar, even through milk, can contribute to tooth decay in infants. When babies fall asleep with bottles containing sugary liquids, the sugar remains in their mouth, creating an environment conducive to the growth of cariogenic bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacilli.

Indications of Nursing Bottle Caries

Indications of Nursing Bottle Caries


Lt Gen Dr Arora outlined the symptoms of nursing bottle caries as follows:

– White spots or discoloration on the teeth, especially around the gum line.
– Progression to brown or black areas on the teeth as the condition advances.
– Sensitivity or pain when consuming hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages.
– Discomfort or pain while chewing, potentially resulting in reluctance or refusal to eat.
– In severe instances, swelling or abscesses in the gums, causing pain and discomfort.

If left untreated, nursing bottle caries can adversely impact the proper development and alignment of permanent teeth.

Treatment Approaches for Nursing Bottle Caries

Lt Gen Dr Arora has provided a list of treatment options for addressing nursing bottle caries.

Treatment Approaches for Nursing Bottle Caries

Encouraging Proper Dental Care

  • After feeding, it’s advisable to gently clean the baby’s gums.
  • Stressing the significance of consistent oral hygiene routines is crucial.

Steering clear of sugary beverages

It’s recommended to discourage the consumption of sugary drinks in bottles, as they are a contributing factor to nursing bottle caries.

Ensuring Regular Dental Examinations

Regular dental examinations play a crucial role in monitoring oral health and promptly addressing any emerging issues.

Reducing Extended Exposure

Limiting the duration of exposure to sugary liquids helps minimize the risk of nursing bottle caries.

Promoting the Transition to Drinking from a Cup

Encouraging the early transition from bottle to cup promotes healthier oral habits in infants and toddlers.

Expert Recommendation

Lt Gen Dr Vimal Arora emphasized the importance of optimal oral health for infants, recommending the consumption of unsweetened milk from a bottle while the baby is awake. However, he warned against the risks associated with allowing a baby to consume sweetened milk while asleep, as it significantly increases the likelihood of nursing bottle caries.

Dr. Arora highlighted that sweetened milk, especially when left in the mouth during sleep, creates an environment favorable for the growth of cariogenic bacteria. This bacterial presence accelerates the development of dental caries, underscoring the necessity of avoiding sweetened liquids during sleep. Additionally, he stressed the importance of rigorous sterilization of the bottle nipple to minimize the introduction of harmful bacteria, thereby further protecting the infant’s oral health.