Giving your Baby Something to Smile About
By Dr. Linda Vidone, Dental Director of DentaQuest in Maryland
Who can resist a baby’s gummy grin? As hard as it is to imagine that tiny mouth full of teeth someday, it can be equally as difficult to imagine that cavity-causing bacteria can begin to develop before the first tooth even pops through.
To help keep baby’s mouths healthy and free from cavity-causing bacteria, there are many simple things parents can do. As they always say, the best offense is a good defense, so routinely using preventive measures will help parents better position their children to avoid tooth decay, which can lead to other more serious health problems later in life.
Below are a few
tips for parents:
Schedule dental visits from year one
Bring your child into the dentist by her first birthday or when the first tooth arrives; then continue taking your child for cleanings every six months. Baby teeth don’t stay forever, but it’s still important to keep those tiny teeth – and pink gums – in the best shape possible while they’re saving spots for permanent teeth. When the first few visits are preventive and don’t involve extensive treatment, your child will in turn have a positive experience – and a healthier mouth.
Don’t Share Food
Cavity-causing bacteria is transferred through saliva, so whatever is in your mouth can be passed on to your baby. Tasting your baby’s food, testing the bottle, cleaning off a pacifier with your own mouth - these can all be transmitters. Make sure you wash off things that have been in your mouth before you give them to your child.
Use a washcloth
The moment a child is born, her mouth is sterile. Whatever bacteria are passed on will likely be with them for life. Start early and use a washcloth with a little water to gently clean your baby’s gums twice a day. Continue doing so once her baby teeth start to emerge so they remain strong and healthy until they are replaced by adult teeth. Her lower front teeth will show at about 8 months; upper front teeth show at about 10 months. First molars and eye teeth appear between 16 and 20 months.
Skip milk before bed
The only drink your child should have before bed is water. Even milk and juice allow sugars to linger in your child’s mouth overnight and may lead to a condition known as Early Childhood Caries, or ECC. ECC is an aggressive, infectious dental disease that can destroy the teeth of very young children and will lead to serious health problems throughout life.
¼ Juice, ¾ Water
Throughout the day, water down juices so they are about three-quarters water to limit your child’s sugar intake. Also, you can rinse out her mouth with water after sugary snacks and drinks to further help reduce the risk of cavities.
Practicing these tips early creates a win/win scenario, setting the stage for your child to have a healthy start that will continue with her throughout life.