Dental Health from Diapers to Dentures
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so the Baby Safety Zone wants to give you the cold hard tooth (couldn't help myself) about baby oral health. You may be thinking, “But my baby doesn’t even have teeth yet!” Actually all 20 primary teeth exist in the jaws at birth, though they don’t usually begin to show until 6 months, sometimes even until 12 or 14 months. Tooth decay affects more than 40% of children before they reach kindergarten, which can negatively affect permanent “adult” teeth. So dental care for baby begins on day one!
From diapers to dentures: Starting the first few days after bringing baby home, begin wiping the gums with a clean washcloth or moist gauze. When the first tooth begins to emerge, start brushing twice a day with a soft baby toothbrush. Use a smear of fluoride toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. That's right, I said fluoride! In February 2014, the American Dental Association (ADA) changed its guidelines and now recommends using flouride toothpaste from the very first tooth! This is also the time to schedule their first dentist appointment. Children should visit a pediatric dentist by their first birthday. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. From age 3 and up, you can begin using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Begin teaching your child to spit out the toothpaste without rinsing. Swallowing too much fluoride can cause spots on permanent teeth. Continue to keep children brushing twice a day for two minutes a day to keep their teeth healthy into adulthood.
Boobs, bottles, and binkies: A study from Pediatrics found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for six months were 72% less likely to have crooked teeth. However, breastfed and bottlefed babies are still at risk for tooth decay. Milk and formula contain sugars that eat away at the teeth, so the same process of wiping your child’s mouth with a clean cloth or gauze should be applied. Parents who choose to bottlefeed should avoid putting their child to bed with a bottle or sippycup filled with milk or any liquid besides water. This long exposure of the teeth to sugary substances leads to what is commonly known as baby bottle tooth decay. Dentists also warn against using a sippycup as a pacifier throughout the day or dipping a pacifier in something sweet, such as honey. If possible teach your child to drink from a cup, preferably by 12 to 15 months. .
Baby in one hand, brush in the other: You do everything you can to protect your baby and keep them healthy. One of the best ways to do that is to take care of yourself. Cavity-causing bacteria is easily transferred through saliva, such as sharing a spoon or using your mouth to wipe off a dropped binky. So if you let your own dental health drop, it could inadvertently put your baby at risk.