Every parent wants the best care for their new baby, but new moms and dads don’t often realize the importance of dental care for their little ones. Many parents believe that, because baby teeth are only present for a short period of time and eventually fall out, their health doesn’t really matter. This kind of thinking won’t help the overall health of your baby, and may actually contribute to poor dental health as your child matures and grows into an adult. Because baby teeth have a great impact on the permanent teeth waiting to fill their place, it is crucial for parents to begin proper dental care as soon as their child’s first tooth peeks out, if not sooner.
Here are 3 important dentistry tips for babies that every parent should know:
#1: Start Proper Dental Care Right Away
Many parents delay brushing until their child has grown a whole row of baby teeth. Pediatric dentists, however, suggest taking a tooth brush to the first tooth that comes in, and even cleaning the baby’s gums before any teeth arrive. If you are caring for a newborn without any teeth, be sure to wipe their gums gently with a warm, damp towel after each feeding—this will prevent your baby from developing Gingivitis, a gum infection which can affect teeth before they’re even present.
#2: Limit Milk & Juice Intake
To soothe a fussy baby, many parents will send their child to nap time with a milk- or juice-filled bottle. Drinks containing fat and sugar may negatively affect your child’s oral heath, leading to tooth decay and cavities. Cavities are indicated by discolorations or minor pitting on your baby’s teeth, and should be cared for immediately by your pediatric dental provider. If you like sending your baby to bed with a bottle, make sure it is filled with nothing but water. It is also good practice to follow meals with a swish of water to wash away any lingering food in the child’s mouth.
#3: Say Goodbye to the Pacifier
Many parents find relief in the silencing, magical power a favorite pacifier can provide. However, they may not realize that this little super hero can actually alter the physical structure of your child’s growing mouth. Because a baby’s maturing teeth and gums compensate to fit around the form of the pacifier, a child with a persistent attachment to their pacifier may be compromising the appearance of their mouth, causing abnormal shifts that can lead to tooth misalignment, over-bites and under-bites, and expensive orthodontic re-structuring procedures. Most dentist say 2-3 years is a healthy age to drop the binky habit, so start thinking now about how you’ll get your baby off the pacifier.
Once your baby becomes a toddler, it’s also a great idea to start brushing with non-fluoride toothpaste as part of their morning and evening routines. Wait until they are a little older—age 3 or 4, typically—to introduce toothpaste with fluoride, since older children may be less likely to swallow it.
Whether you’re a new parent or a seasoned pro, you can greatly increase your child’s current and future health by following these essential dentistry tips. By forming positive habits at a young age, you will have a better chance at raising a child that is aware of the importance of their oral health and will be more likely to keep these practices up throughout their life.