Good dental health is important for everyone but is essential for babies, toddlers, and kids. The habits formed when they are young will be the foundation for the rest of their lives.
Primary teeth, also called baby teeth, are essential to your child’s future dental health. They help children speak clearly and chew naturally and also aid in forming a path those permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.
Children are happier when they can chew easily, speak clearly, and smile confidently. In addition, your child’s general health can be affected if diseased baby teeth are not treated.
From the moment your child is born, taking care of those little pearly whites is essential. Here are some top dental care tips for your infant and toddler.
Make Your Maternal Health a Priority
Baby teeth begin forming during pregnancy. By the time the baby is born, a complete set of primary teeth has formed underneath the baby’s gums. It’s crucial to make sure oral health remains a priority while pregnant.
Many common oral issues pregnant women may see are:
Hormones: During pregnancy, a woman’s body produces many hormones to accommodate the life growing inside. These hormones can affect the health of her teeth and gums, making women more prone to periodontal (gum) disease and cavities.
Change in Eating Habits: It’s common for women to experience food cravings when pregnant, particularly for junk food. Eating more sugary foods can increase the risk of cavities.
Morning Sickness: Frequent morning sickness and vomiting cause stomach acid to make its way into the mouth. This excess acid can weaken tooth enamel, putting expectant moms at a greater risk for cavities and tooth decay.
Difficulties With Brushing and Flossing: Many pregnant women report having tender gums, making brushing and flossing harder and causing nausea.
Caring for Your Infant’s Mouth and Gums
Cavities are caused by germs that are passed from adult to child. Babies are born without the bacteria that causes cavities. Caregivers can pass on these germs by sharing saliva and spoons, by testing foods before feeding them to babies, by cleaning off a pacifier in their mouth instead of with water, and through other activities where saliva is shared. These germs can start the process that causes cavities even before babies have teeth, so it’s important to avoid sharing saliva with your baby right from the start.
Before your baby’s first tooth becomes visible, use a clean, soft washcloth and gently wipe their mouth and gums every day. This helps prevent a buildup of sugars from breast milk or formula and gets them accustomed to having their mouth cleaned.
Caring for Your Baby’s Newly Erupted Teeth
Teething, also known as primary tooth eruption, is when your baby’s first set of teeth breaks through their gums. Teething usually begins around six months of age. However, it’s entirely normal for teething to start at any time between three to 12 months of age.
As soon as teeth become visible, brush them twice a day with a small soft bristle toothbrush that contains a rice-sized smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste. Encourage your baby to spit out the toothpaste.
Every baby experiences teething differently. Some babies have no symptoms, while others seem to go through a lot of pain. If your little one is having a difficult time during teething, there are some things you can try to help ease their discomfort and pain.
Just like permanent teeth, baby teeth can get cavities if not properly taken care of. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a term used to describe the decay that develops when baby teeth have frequent and prolonged contact with too much sugar. It can occur when babies are put to bed with a bottle, when a bottle is used as a pacifier, or if a baby uses a bottle or sippy cup for extended periods of time. Bacteria already in the mouth feed on the sugar, multiply and produce acid as a waste product. This acid attacks the teeth and tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. To prevent baby bottle tooth decay, only put water, milk, or formula in baby bottles and take the bottle away while your child is sleeping.
For more information about baby teeth, check out our blog post: 5 Things to Know About Baby Teeth.
Encourage Healthy and Nutritional Habits Early
As your baby gets, maintaining a well-balanced and healthy diet is essential for their growth and development. Make sure to:
Provide Healthy Foods: Once your child is old enough to eat, supply them with healthy snacks. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are essential.
Avoid Sticky Foods and Unhealthy Snacks: Don’t give your baby candy, soda, or juice in between meals. Instead, give your baby healthy snacks like cheese, yogurt, or fruit.
Limit Juice: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to give juice to children under 12 months. Kids between 12 and 36 months should not have more than four fluid ounces of liquid. Instead, offer whole milk and water.
Switch to Cups: When your child is about 12 months old, you should transition from bottles to cups. Consistent bottle feeding can encourage tooth decay.
We’ve compiled a few extra tips at Five Nutrition Tips for Healthy Kids’ Smiles.
By expanding your menu and providing a variety of tasty, healthy foods, you will ensure better nutrition for your child and build a strong foundation for lifelong healthy eating habits.
When should I take my child to the dentist for the first check-up?
Prevention and education are key to a lifetime of healthy smiles. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children make their first visit to the dentist before their first birthday or six months after they get their first tooth.
We offer “Baby & Me” appointments for children under 2 years of age. During their first dental visit, we will discuss proper oral care, diet and habits that can influence your little one’s dental health and overall well-being. This first visit is a wonderful opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about your baby’s oral health and needs.
At Growing Healthy Smiles, our team is always ready to answer questions, address concerns and make sure that your baby or toddler has a happy and healthy smile. Schedule an appointment today or call us at (904) 215-7800!