Ask Dr. Marla: Giving Bottles at Night

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Is it OK to give bottles at night?


Although it might be tempting and easy to put a baby to bed with a bottle, it is not recommended. Not only is it associated with dental issues but also carries the potential risk of aspiration, poor habit formation and the potential risk of ear infections.

Milk is high in sugar (lactose) and sleeping with a bottle can provide a constant bathing of the teeth with sugars leading to the potential risk of severe decay. There is a form of baby bottle or nursing decay that can occur if the baby is permitted to sleep with a bottle containing milk or juice. In the most extreme form, baby teeth can become entirely decayed, necessitating extractions. It is important to note that even a baby given food or a bottle of milk in the evening should have their teeth cleaned before bedtime, since there is the potential risk of cavities from the remains of the milk or food left on the teeth overnight in the form of plaque or residue.

During the day there are more opportunities for the plaque to be rinsed away because the child may eat foods that buffer the acidity or drinks that may wash away any residue. Fluorides  derived from foods, drinks and toothpastes can actually help to remineralize early cavities. If you feel that a bottle is totally necessary or you want to slowly decrease the habit, a bottle of water is a better option for your child’s dental health.

Published June 2010

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