Want to raise a child with good oral health habits? Start early.
How many times have you returned from a trip to the dentist and vowed to start taking better care of your teeth? Good oral hygiene offers so many benefits, and developing the daily habits that it depends on starts earlier than you might think. So here are ten things you should know about baby dental care.
1. Start cleaning before teeth come in
You can get in the habit of healthy oral habits before your baby starts teething. Use a wet washcloth or even your finger (after washing your hands, of course) to gently wipe your baby’s gums after each feeding and clean away any remaining bits of food.
2. Take care of new teeth right away
As soon as a tooth breaks through the gum, it has to be brushed, including baby teeth. Baby teeth preserve the spacing for the adult teeth to come, so if baby teeth are lost early due to decay, the adult teeth that follow will be misaligned. Tooth decay can also lead to a gum disease called gingivitis. Besides, it’s hard to start properly caring for adult teeth when poor habits have been instilled with baby teeth.
3. Never send baby to bed with a bottle
She might find it soothing, but pooling liquid can introduce bacteria into her mouth and enable the bacteria that’s already there to spread. Never let baby fall asleep with milk, or even worse, juice.
4.Two teeth? Time to floss
As soon as two teeth appear next to each other, it’s time to add flossing to the regimen. In general, string-type floss is the most effective kind because you can better control the amount of pressure you apply, but floss picks are probably the best way to floss baby’s teeth without a lot of resistance.
5. Offer water right after meals
Finish each meal with a few healthy mouthfuls of water. It’s an easy way to get rid of any food that’s hiding under the tongue or in those big, adorable cheeks.
6. Start them with a toothbrush early
Introduce a toothbrush to your baby as early as you can so he gets used to having it in his mouth. You don’t even have to use it to brush at first – it’s all about letting him get comfortable with it. That way, when it’s time to start really brushing, the transition will be easy.
7. Make brushing a fun family activity
You want your child to develop good brushing habits, and the best way to do that is to make brushing fun. Brush your teeth together every morning and evening and keep things light – before you know it, brushing will be something she looks forward to.
8. Use toothpaste at age 2
You can start using non-fluoride toothpaste once your baby is about 2 years old. (Prior to that you can just use a soft, wet, baby toothbrush.) Once you can trust him not to swallow (usually around age 3), you can introduce a fluoride toothpaste.
9. Supplemental fluoride
Fluoride is important for helping to prevent tooth decay. The best way to get it is in tap water – city water systems usually have it added for just this purpose. If it’s not added to your water supply, ask your pediatrician about fluoride supplements.
10. Schedule an exam
The American Dental Association recommends that babies receive a dental exam when they’re a year old, but many physicians think it can wait until age three as long as you practice good home care. But whenever you start, it’s a great idea to take your child on regular trips to the dentist when they’re young so it becomes familiar and routine and any problems are caught early. By following these simple tips, you will help your baby start to develop good habits that will last a lifetime.
Note: This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and not to give professional medical advice. Please consult your doctor about any questions you may have regarding your child’s health and before following any of the suggestions in this post.