When that first tooth erupts, it’s time for baby’s first toothbrush. Typically, there are two options available: long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold, and finger brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case the are just are few soft bristles. Toothpaste isn’t necessary, you can dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn’t react well to the toothbrush, switch back to a damp washcloth for a some time, then try the toothbrush again.
Sugars that are present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (as well as breast milk) can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is really important after every meal. Make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle or is used to fall asleep with a bottle, sugary liquids in prolonged contact with your babys’s teeth will help cause for early-childhood decay, they are called baby-bottle caries.
Usually its recommended that your baby has a first visit to the dentist within six months of the first tooth’s eruption. Decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the sooner your baby visits the doctor, the more likely she is to avoid problems. The doctor will look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and consult with you about the best way to care for his young teeth.
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and she’ll intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as she shows interest, give her a toothbrush of her own and encourage her to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy for her to grip.) Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job for her. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!
Tooth decay is caused by sugars left in your mouth that turn into an acid which can break down your teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason — many children and adolescents do not practice regular, good oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away.
Your child should visit the dentist every six months for regular dental cleanings and checkups. We recommend fluoride treatments twice a year along with cleanings to keep teeth their strongest. Tooth sealants are also recommended because they “seal” the deep grooves in your child’s teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years, but will be monitored at your regular checkups.
Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, your child’s first teeth play an important role in his development. While they’re in place, these primary teeth help your little one speak, smile and chew properly. They also hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth. If a child loses a tooth too early (due to damage or decay) nearby teeth may encroach on that space, which can result in crooked or misplaced permanent teeth. Also, your child’s general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as his first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You can most likely find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore.
Once your child has a few teeth, you can start using toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste without fluoride for children under two, as too much fluoride can be dangerous for very young children. Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing, to begin a lifelong habit he’ll need when he graduates to fluoride toothpaste. Children naturally want to swallow toothpaste after brushing, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause teeth to stain. You should brush your child’s teeth for him until he is ready to take on that responsibility himself, which usually happens by age six or seven.
Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.
Be sure that your child brushes his teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, as flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can’t. Check with your pediatric dentist about a fluoride supplement which helps tooth enamel be harder and more resistant to decay. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet. And finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child’s teeth and provide professional cleanings.
Sealants cover the pits and fissures in teeth that are difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to decay. We recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach.
Even children’s sports involve contact, and we recommend mouthguards for children active in sports. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other sports, ask us about having a custom-fitted mouthguard made to protect his teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
The large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it by the age of four, without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. If you child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt, or sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.
Once the baby teeth in back are touching each other, then regular (at least yearly) X-rays are recommended. Permanent teeth start coming in around age six, and X-rays help us make sure your child’s teeth and jaw are healthy and properly aligned. If your child is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.