Child with a toothache - Smart Pediatric Dentistry, Utah

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that live on the teeth. When sugar is consumed, the bacteria use the sugar to produce acids that dissolve the teeth and cause an infection, leading to tooth decay.

What is Early Childhood Tooth Decay?

Early childhood tooth decay is a result of children going to bed with a bottle of milk, juice or formula. The sugar in these drinks stays in contact with the teeth for a long time, leading to quick decay.

Child eating candy, ruining his teeth - Smart Pediatric Dentistry, Utah

Preventing Early Childhood Tooth Decay

There are several steps that parents can take to prevent early childhood tooth decay:

  • Put your child to bed with a bottle of plain water instead of milk or juice.
  • Stop nursing your child when they fall asleep or stop sucking on the bottle.
  • Avoid letting your child walk around with a bottle of milk or juice as a pacifier.
  • Start teaching your child to drink from a cup at around 6 months of age and aim to stop using a bottle by 12 to 14 months.
  • Avoid dipping your child's pacifier in honey or sugar.
  • Fluoride Supplements

Fluoride helps to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay. If the water in your area does not have enough fluoride, your doctor may prescribe fluoride supplements in the form of drops or pills. These should be given every day starting from 6 months old. Only use the amount as directed to avoid over fluoridation, which can lead to spots on your child's teeth. Check with your local water authority to determine if your water is fluoridated and inform your dentist or pediatrician accordingly. Children should continue taking fluoride drops or pills until they are 12 to 16 years old or until they move to an area with fluoride in the water.


Early childhood tooth decay is a common issue that can be prevented with proper care. By taking the steps discussed above, parents can ensure that their children have healthy teeth and a bright smile. For more information on oral care and dental services, please visit our Locations page.