Taking proper care of a baby’s smile from day one will set them on the right track for life.
Proper oral care is important at every stage of life, even for babies! Children depend on healthy teeth to chew, speak properly, and smile. Baby teeth also serve as a placeholder for adult teeth and help them grow in correctly. Taking proper care of a baby’s teeth will set them on the right path for a healthy smile that lasts them a lifetime.
Even before a baby’s first tooth comes in, they still need proper care to keep their mouths healthy. Their gums should be wiped down with a damp washcloth after eating or drinking. Saliva helps prevent cavities from forming and naturally cleanses the mouth from harmful bacteria. However, babies produce less saliva than adults do, so they need extra help removing bacteria from their mouth.
As soon as a baby’s first tooth comes in, parents should begin gently brushing their teeth with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice). Fluoride toothpaste helps prevent cavities and can reverse early signs of tooth decay. Once a baby has all their baby teeth, their caretaker should start flossing their teeth as well.
Just like adult teeth, baby teeth are susceptible to cavities. Tooth decay in babies and toddlers is often called baby bottle tooth decay. It often affects the upper front teeth, but all baby teeth have the potential to develop decay. When sugar stays on a baby’s teeth for a long period of time, bacteria feed on these sugars and create acids that attack the tooth’s surface. This condition is easily avoidable by taking a few precautions.
How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay:
- Avoid frequently filling bottles with sugary beverages such as juices, soft drinks, or flavored milk. Stick to bottles with formula, milk, breastmilk, or water.
- Make sure the baby’s pacifier is clean and never dip it in sweet substances such as sugar, honey, or syrup.
- Try to have the baby finish their bottles before naptime and bedtime. If the child is struggling with this transition, fill their bottles with water.
- Start transitioning to drinking from cups around the child’s first birthday.
If cavities do occur, they can easily be treated with fillings. It is best to catch cavities early. The American Dental Association recommends that babies should have their first dentist appointment when their first tooth comes in or by the age of one, whichever one comes first.
A dentist is able to examine the baby’s teeth, detect any potential issues early, and give parents suggestions on how to keep their baby’s mouth healthy. A lifetime of excellent oral health starts with diligent care in the early years!