Several specific types of bacteria that live on the teeth cause decay. When sugar is consumed, the bacteria use the sugar and then manufacture acids that dissolve the teeth and cause an infection in the tooth. This infection is called decay.
Babies who go to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice or nurse-at-will are more likely to get tooth decay. Because the sugar in formula, milk, or juice stays in contact with the teeth for a long time during the night, the teeth can decay quickly.
Fluoride helps make teeth strong and prevents tooth decay. If the water where you live does not have enough fluoride, your doctor may prescribe fluoride supplements (fluoride drops or pills). You would give these drops or pills every day, starting when your child is about six months old. Only give as much as the directions say to use because too much fluoride can cause spots on your child’s teeth. Also, be sure to call your local water authority and ask if your water is fluoridated. If it is, tell your dentist or pediatrician so that your child is not being over fluoridated. Children should take these drops or pills until they are 12 to 16 years old (or until you move to an area with fluoride in the water).
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