Good dental habits should start with your baby’s first tooth. Although baby teeth eventually do fall out, it is important to care for them. Baby teeth help your child chew and speak properly, and hold space for permanent teeth. If your child has healthy baby teeth, chances are he or she will have healthy adult teeth, too.
Avoid ‘Baby Bottle Tooth Decay’
Tooth decay can occur when sugary foods or drinks, such as milk, formula, or juice, come into contact with a baby’s teeth for long periods of time. Decay is serious—it can affect the underlying bone structure, which can hurt development of a child’s adult teeth. Decayed teeth also can be painful. Here are some ways to prevent early childhood tooth decay:
- Don’t put your baby to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or other sugary beverage.
- If the child must have a bottle at bedtime, it should be filled with water.
- During the day, don’t give your baby a bottle filled with a sweet drink to use as a pacifier.
- If your baby uses a pacifier, avoid dipping it in honey, syrup, or sugar.
- Serve juice from a cup, rather than from a bottle.
- Give your child fruits and vegetables to eat instead of candy and cookies.
Besides providing healthy foods and monitoring your child’s intake of sugary drinks, cleaning the teeth is an essential part of your child’s dental care.
Keep Teeth Clean
- For infants, wipe the gums gently with a soft, damp cloth or gauze after each feeding.
- Begin cleaning baby teeth as soon as they come in. When the teeth emerge, brush them with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and water at least once a day, preferably before bedtime. Starting at age 2, use a pea-sized dab of pediatric toothpaste. Use only a small amount because kids tend to swallow the toothpaste.
- Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless.
- Begin flossing once all baby teeth have come in, usually around 2 to 2-and-a-half years of age.
Parents should help children brush until they are 7 or 8 years old and can properly and thoroughly brush on their own.
Visit the Dentist
Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be within six months after baby teeth emerge and before the first birthday, unless a problem is suspected. Schedule visits to the dentist regularly to prevent dental problems and protect your child’s smile.