You’ve been enjoying your baby’s “tooth-less” smiles
for a few months and now there are some tiny little white teeth sprouting.
That means it’s time to take care of baby’s first set of teeth,
a vital step in the long-term health of your child’s permanent teeth.
It’s important to work toward healthy dental habits from when your
baby’s first tooth appears. Starting early with wiping the first
erupting tooth with a wet washcloth / finger toothbrush helps to baby
adjust to this healthy habit. Sometimes it seems that babies / toddlers
don’t want their teeth cleaned, but it’s extremely important
to continue working toward thorough brushing and it will get better as
you stay consistent and with time. By the time your child is 3 years old
all 20 baby teeth will already be in!
And even though baby teeth are temporary, they’re still susceptible
to cavities. Unfortunately dental cavities are common: 25% of 2-4 year
olds in the U.S. have had a cavity. Fortunately, baby cavities are largely
preventable with proactive care.
Here are a few tips for keeping your child’s gums and teeth healthy:
- Begin to gently brush baby’s teeth when the first tooth appears,
twice a day – in the morning and after dinner or the last bottle
before bed. You should use a “grain of rice sized” amount
of fluoridated toothpaste. When your baby turns 3 years old, then you
should increase to a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- Avoid putting baby to bed with a bottle. Commonly referred to as baby bottle
tooth decay, this can happen when sweetened liquid such as juice, milk
or formula stay in the mouth for a long period of time, especially right
before bedtime. Tooth decay can occur when baby is put to bed with a bottle,
or when a bottle is used as a pacifier. The sugars in the drink are metabolized
by bacteria in the mouth, which leads to the production of acid that can
eat away the enamel of the teeth, often resulting in cavities.
- Do not share things that have been in an adult’s mouth with your
baby. Babies initially do not have cavity-causing bacteria in their mouth.
However by cleaning a pacifier in a parent’s mouth, or feeding parent
and baby from the same spoon or fork can introduce these bacteria to baby early.
- Sugary foods and sugary drinks are a tooth’s worst enemy. Try to
establish good eating habits to promote oral health, as well as overall
wellness. Avoid sticky foods e.g. dried fruits, gummies, “fruit
snacks,” etc. as they adhere to the tooth and increase risk for cavity.
Starting good oral hygiene early on can help keep your baby’s smile
healthy for life.