Some parents may not know all of the intricacies behind caring for their children’s teeth. For example, oral care should be started before the first tooth even appears. From healthy gums come healthy teeth. Between juices and milk there are a lot of sugars that can contribute to harmful bacteria that build up in your child’s mouth (just like adults). So, it’s imperative that this list of helpful tips be read, recognized and exercised especially during the infancy stages.
1.) After every meal be sure to take a wet washcloth over the gums of your infant to rid of any harmful sugars or acids that could contribute to damage to the gums. Even babies can develop tooth decay before the teeth are visible. The first dentist visit for your child should occur close to and by their first birthday.
2.) Refrain from putting your baby to bed with their bottle! While it may be an easier way to ensure your child goes down, the sugars from milk and juices in the baby’s mouth for hours at a time can eat at the gums/enamel causing “bottle-mouth.” Bottle mouth is a condition that is prominent in young children that haven’t exercised proper oral care. Symptoms of this condition include pocked, pitted or discolored teeth. If this is the case, you should consult a pediatric dentist immediately.
3.) As teeth come in, use an infant toothbrush with just water. Your child is not old enough to grasp the concept of spitting out toothpaste. A child’s visceral reaction at this age is to swallow and it’s important that they do not swallow any toothpaste as it could be harmful to their health.
4.) At age two your child can start to use toothpaste. Wait until age three to use any toothpastes containing fluoride. Be sure not to use too much, though. At this age too much fluoride can actually be harmful. Only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is recommended. From age 2-5 this should be the standard procedure and should always be supervised by an adult/parent.
5.) Set specific feeding times for your child throughout the day. Carelessly allowing your child to suck on a bottle all day can be very harmful to your child’s oral hygiene.
6.) Use a pediatric dentist. A pediatric dentist specializes in prevention and can refer you to a specialist should one be needed (i.e, an orthodontist for an overbite or an oral surgeon for jaw alignment).
7.) Flossing should begin as soon as there are any two teeth that touch or are right next to each other. It’s common and completely okay if your child has gaps between their baby teeth. This allows for room when their permanent teeth start coming in, helping to prevent crowding.
8.) It’s very important that you break your child of habits like sucking their thumb, using a pacifier or drinking from a bottle by or before age 4. Refusing to do this could result in alignment, over/under-bite or jaw issues as their permanent teeth make their way in. If this is the case it could mean more painful and expensive procedures to be required to rectify these issues. It’s always easier to prevent these problems than it is to correct them.