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News / February 8, 2011

Bottle feeding linked to tooth decay

by Guy Hiscott

Experts are urging parents to stop bottle-feeding their babies because of rising rates of severe tooth decay in infants as young as 12 months.
A professor at a leading children’s hospital in Australia said naturally occurring lactose was present in both breast milk and formula but when combined with plaque in a baby’s mouth via a bottle, it could erode the enamel of primary teeth.
Associate Professor Richard Widmer, of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, said: ‘Ideally, children should go straight from breast to cup, avoiding bottles altogether.’
Although it has become widely accepted that babies should not go to sleep suckling on juice, cordial or other sweet drinks, the warning about milk is likely to come as a shock to many mothers.
Professor Widmer said the hospital had been removing teeth, under general anaesthetic, from babies as young as 12 months due to bottle-feeding infants at bedtime.
He said that in a group of 100 five-year-olds, as many as one-third would have some form of tooth decay and as many as nine per cent severe decay.
Even when teeth had not formed, it was important to establish good habits and not let a child become accustomed to sucking on a bottle at night, Professor Widmer said.
Of the 600 children he treated in emergency each year, as many as 15% had presented with severe tooth decay.
Professor Widmer advises on taking children to the dentist from the age of 12 months and no later than two, and brushing as their first teeth appear.
Angus Cameron, head of paediatric dentistry at Sydney University and Westmead Hospital, said tooth decay was so bad in some infants that they had to have every one of their primary teeth removed.