Many people ask this question: Do I need to take care of my baby’s teeth, even though they’re just going to fall out? The answer is yes you must baby your baby’s teeth!
The common misconception is that baby teeth are unimportant because they eventually fall out. However, what you may not know is that baby teeth help with jaw development, act as place holders for adult teeth and help with speech development and chewing.
Ideally, you should be taking care of your baby’s oral health before their first tooth comes through. Their teeth sitting under the gums, waiting to come through, can be affected by their diet. And this has a knock-on effect to the health of their adult teeth.
Why It’s Important to take care of your baby’s oral health
Infants can develop tooth problems very quickly. Their teeth aren’t as robust as adult teeth, so cavities and other problems can quickly turn into abscesses and serious infections. And because babies are so small and young, these problems pose greater risks and are more difficult to treat than if experienced by adults.
If infants lose their baby teeth due to poor oral hygiene, they also lose the guide that helps their permanent teeth come in correctly. In fact, baby teeth with decay can actually result in adult teeth coming through with either decay or infection. So, instead of brushing off your baby’s oral hygiene as unimportant, establish good dental habits for your baby now.
What You Should Do
Obviously, your baby doesn’t understand dental health, and he or she won’t understand it until long after learning to talk. You’re in complete control of your baby’s teeth, and if you follow the rules below, you should have no trouble giving your baby a beautiful, healthy smile:
- Wipe your baby’s gums.
Wipe your child’s mouth and gums with a clean gauze pad after every meal. This removes plaque that can harm erupting teeth. And as teeth start to erupt, you can continue to do this.
- Give your baby plenty of tooth-building vitamins and minerals.
Calcium, phosphorus and fluoride are all important for your baby’s teeth. The fluoride will come from toothpaste (which you won’t use until their first tooth erupts), and the calcium and phosphorus will come from breast milk, formula milk, cheese and yogurt. You should also give your baby plenty of vitamin C for healthy gums.
- Avoid sugar.
Babies aren’t crazy about sugar like adults are. Mostly because they haven’t been subtly addicted to it the way most adults are. Babies are perfectly happy to eat savory foods—after all, they’re babies, as long as it’s food and as long as they like the taste they’ll be happy to eat it.
Starting them off with natural foods will help to give them better health overall. Sugars feed the bacteria that break down teeth, and they contribute to problems like obesity and diabetes later in life.
Give your child a boost by starting healthy habits now. Of course, sugar in moderation is okay: the odd juice now and then is fine, as long as it’s in moderation and as long as it’s accompanied by something like water or a snack that’s good for their teeth.
- Have your baby drink milk and water, not juice.
Again, your baby doesn’t crave artificial sugars. Many juices are full of artificial sugars as well as acids that will wear down the enamel of your baby’s teeth. When you do give you baby juice, water in down. and only give it to your baby at mealtimes. However, giving your baby milk or water instead will be better for his or her dental and overall health.
- Don’t give your baby a bottle of juice overnight.
The longer food particles stay in your baby’s mouth, the longer bacteria have to eat those particles and grow all over your baby’s teeth. Your baby will likely have that bottle hanging in his or her mouth all night long. Save your child’s teeth by slowly weaning him or her off of the nightly bottle.
If you baby does want that bottle at night, give them a bottle of milk or water. This is healthier not only for their gums, and their developing teeth, but it’s healthier for their body’s too. When you put your baby to bed with water or milk instead of juice you have the added benefit of: not creating the association of a sweet drink with a good night’s sleep, and so you avoid creating a sort of sugar dependency for sleep.
- Have your child graduate to drinking out of cups.
Bottles and sippy cups keep the food particles in your baby’s mouth for longer too, so the sooner your baby starts drinking from cups instead, the better your baby’s oral health will be. Also babies tend to chew or naw on bottles, and this isn’t necessarily good for their developing teeth either.
Many children see their parents drinking from cups and soon associate drinking from cups as a grown-up thing to do: for some children, this can be all the encouragement they need to upgrade to normal cups.
- Start brushing teeth as soon as they appear.
Your baby might be ticklish, but you need to brush his or her teeth with a fluoride, child-friendly toothpaste as soon as teeth break through the gums. You should only use a tiny bit of fluoride, about the size of a rice grain, and brush your baby’s teeth (or tooth) after every meal.
- Feed your baby cheese when you don’t have the opportunity to brush after meals.
Certain types of cheese, like swiss and cheddar, encourage saliva production, which is the body’s natural defense against plaque and bacteria. Cheese is a good failsafe if you can’t brush your baby’s teeth immediately after a meal. Cheese also has protein and calcium which has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for teeth.
What is the best age to bring your baby to the dentist.
This answer varies from dentist to dentist. And it depends on what you mean by bring your baby to the dentist.
For example, bringing your baby to your next appointment can be a good way of getting your baby familiar with dental visits. If they see one of their parents getting a check-up and clean, and see that their parents are fine, this can make it easier for them when they have their turn.
There are two options for when you should bring your child to the dentist for their first visit:
- When their first tooth comes through
- When they are 2 years old
Taking your baby to the dentist soon after their first tooth has come through
Their first tooth will come through somewhere between 4 and 7 months. For early developers, their first tooth may appear around three months, and for a late bloomer their first tooth may not come through until around their first birthday. If you are worried about your baby’s dental health, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your dentist.
Visiting a dentist when your baby’s first tooth comes through allows your baby to become familiar with their dentist, and allows their dentist to assess your baby’s oral health.
A baby’s first check-up is not extensive, but it a good time to check that their teeth are coming through properly; and your dentist can answer any questions you may have about your baby’s oral health.
Taking your baby to the dentist at two years of age
By two years of age, most of your baby’s teeth have come through. There are enough teeth for your dentist to get an idea of your child’s bite, the health of their teeth and give them their first scale and clean.
It won’t be as intensive as what an adult gets, as baby teeth are not as strong as adult teeth, but it will—again—help you child get used to the dentist and keep their teeth healthy and clean.
Your baby’s at-home routine
Until your baby is dexterous enough to tie their shoe-laces they aren’t going to be able to get a toothbrush to all the right places: or apply the necessary pressure to ensure they thoroughly clean their own teeth.
Brushing your baby’s teeth until they can, is important to help them maintain the best possible oral hygiene.
Take your baby to the dentist. Babies need regular checkups too, especially since their teeth are so fragile.
The importance of starting young
Remember: healthy baby teeth mean healthy adult teeth. Healthy teeth improve chances of having a correct bite which minimizes your baby’s chance of needing braces, or series dental work later in life.
All of this information is not meant to scare you into action. It’s meant to illustrate how important your baby’s oral health is to the rest of their lives. Good oral hygiene when they are young will go a long way to helping them maintain good oral hygiene through their life.
At Dentrix Dental Care we recommend bringing your baby in for their first visit after their first tooth has come through. This allows your dentist to assess their oral health and make sure everything’s on the right track, and gives you the opportunity to ask any dental health related questions you have.
If you would like to know more information, or to request an appointment, please contact us today.