There is nothing quite like seeing your baby smile with that first tiny tooth peeking through. Take plenty of pictures, then take note of the following ways to help keep those teeth healthy:
1. Take care of Mommy and Daddy’s oral health. This is something that you can start working on throughout pregnancy and before your baby even has teeth. Cavities are caused by the acidic environment created by the bacteria inside our mouths. Because there is often transmission of bacteria from the parents’ mouths to the baby (through sharing of food, utensils, etc), it is important for the parents to have good oral hygiene and dental health. Avoid cleaning your baby’s pacifiers or toys with your own mouth, or using your teeth to bite off pieces of food for you child.
2. Practice good feeding techniques. When your baby is young, make sure that you hold him while you are feeding him. Propping up the bottle or letting him fall asleep with a bottle can lead to pooling of the milk around the teeth and increase risk of tooth decay. When you baby gets older, avoid or minimize sugar sweetened drinks and foods.
3. Brush those teeth. As soon as your baby has his first tooth, you should start “brushing” or wiping them down twice a day. Use a wet cloth or a soft bristle brush. Establishing this as a pattern early on can lead to less resistance to brushing as your child gets older. Under two: brush with plain water twice a day. Over two or when he knows how to spit after brushing: brush with a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day. While toddlers may try to exert their independence and brush on their own, children often need an adult to help them brush effectively until they are about school age.
4. Fluoride. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities by preventing loss of dental enamel, or the protective outer covering of the tooth. Fluoride in appropriate levels is found in most community drinking water in the US. Fluoridated water along with fluoride-containing toothpaste usually provides adequate exposure for dental protection and additional supplementation is not needed.
5. Find a Dental Home. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children find a “dental home” by 1 year of age. Their goal is to provide a resource for families and children for comprehensive oral health, dental education, and anticipatory guidance. Ask your pediatrician for the names of dentists near you who are comfortable seeing children.
6. Protect them against trauma. For older children involved in contact sports, make sure they are using proper dental protection (mouth guards) to protect their permanent teeth.