Tooth decay (caries) has serious consequences when it comes to your child’s health and affects 40–50 percent of children before age 5. More than half of the four million children born each year will have cavities by the time they reach the second grade. Early dentist visits are key to preventing early childhood caries, a condition in which children 5 years of age or younger have one or more decayed, missing, or filled tooth surfaces, often referred to as “baby bottle tooth decay” or “nursing caries.” The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems. The most common causes of tooth decay are bacteria and unrestricted use of sugar-sweetened drinks (juice, soda, milk). The AAPD discourages bedtime bottle use, with the exception of bottles containing water. Parents are encouraged to abandon the bottle altogether in favor of a cup by the first birthday.
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