Babies usually start getting their first teeth around four to six months, but even before the first tooth appears it’s important to start caring for your child’s gums and teeth. The sooner you start, the less likely your child will experience tooth decay and cavities, which affects about 4 in 10 children between the ages of 2 and 11.
Clean Your Baby’s Gums
Before the first tooth even appears, you can start by cleaning your baby’s gums. Doing so after feeding can remove sugars and bacteria, and help your baby get used to having his or her mouth cleaned. Use a clean, damp washcloth and your finger to gently rub the gums.
Keep Their Mouths Clean
Babies put a lot of things in their mouths, beyond just what you feed them. These objects could have bacteria or other germs that could lead to infection, and while you may not be able to keep your baby from putting anything in his or her mouth (since that’s an important part of his or her development), but you can avoid doing things that could introduce more bacteria to your baby’s mouth. For example, don’t put objects in your mouth before putting them in your baby’s mouth (like a utensil or toothbrush), and rinse off pacifiers and nipples with water instead of your own saliva.
See a Dentist Early and Often
As soon as your baby’s first tooth appears, or by his or her first birthday (whichever happens first), it’s time to schedule a dentist appointment. Those early dental visits can establish good oral health habits, provide you with advice and information to help keep your baby’s teeth clean as they get more, and also provide a safe, positive experience at the dentist. This reduces the chance that the first visit is a scary or painful experience, which can make children terrified of getting dental care and cause you to avoid it in the future.
Use Fluoride-Free Toothpaste
Young children and babies may accidentally swallow some of their toothpaste, so it’s important to use fluoride-free toothpaste until they understand how to spit it out. Use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush to brush teeth as soon as they appear in your baby’s mouth. Even though your baby’s first teeth will fall out, keeping them healthy holds the space for permanent teeth and prevents tooth decay that can make it hard for kids to each and chew nutritious foods, or cause them to miss school because of tooth pain.
Consider Fluoride Supplements
If you don’t have fluoride in your drinking water, talk to your dentist about the right time to start giving your child a fluoride supplement. These supplements provide small doses of fluoride that strengthens teeth and can build a foundation for a lifelong healthy mouth.
Avoid Juice and Baby Bottle Decay
Stick with milk or water instead of juice to avoid excessive sugars—dentists recommend no more than four ounces of juice per day for babies and toddlers. Also avoid putting your baby down for naps or bed with a bottle that has juice, formula, or milk. These drinks contain sugars that feed bacteria growth and can lead to decay. If your child needs a bottle to sleep, stick with plain water.
Establishing good oral habits early in your child’s life can lead to stronger, healthier teeth. Schedule an appointment with our dentists at Young Family Dental today.