Establishing good dental hygiene habits earlier on in your child’s life will help save you from complicated dental issues in the future. Poor dental hygiene can lead to tooth decay, gum disease or even tooth loss. Research shows that tooth decay is 5x more common than asthma in young children and that gum disease can also put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
To help prevent your child from experiencing potentially painful dental procedures, it’s important for families to establish good dental habits early on. Even though your baby’s teeth are only temporary, it is never too soon to start teaching your children about the importance of good oral health or to start developing a routine that will help encourage proper dental care throughout their lives. If not properly taken care of, your child may develop decayed or lose baby teeth which can affect how permanent teeth come in and also can hinder speech develop and good nutrition.
Here are some ways to start your child off with good dental care:
- Even before a baby’s first tooth appears, you can begin preventing tooth decay. After breast feeding or bottle feeding your baby, use a damp washcloth to wipe the baby’s gums. By doing this regularly, you are preventing the buildup of bacteria in your baby’s mouth. Also, if your child doesn’t like their mouth being cleaned at first, they will become used to it and it will help establish oral care routines at a very young age.
- A baby’s first tooth will appear around six months of age. As soon as the tooth pops through the gums you should begin brushing their tooth or teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush. You may use just warm water to soften the bristles or a very small amount of cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste. Toothbrushes should be changed every two to four months or once the bristles have become rough as bacteria can build up on them.
- Research suggests that families should avoid putting a baby to sleep with feedings or giving them milk or juice right before bed. If your children’s teeth are exposed to the sugar from the milk or juice overnight, they are more likely to develop cavities. Save milk and limit juices for mealtimes and be sure to brush their teeth before bed.
- Even if your child isn’t using toothpaste yet, they should still be getting exposed to fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay. Most tap water will have fluoride added to it because of these benefits and you can consult with your doctor or dentist to see if your drinking water does. If not, they will be able to suggest a fluoride supplement that your child can take when old enough.
As your child gets older, continue to show them how to properly care for their teeth by leading by example. Making good dietary decisions for your child is also important. Water and milk are the best choices when it comes to dental health, but we understand that can be difficult. Try to limit sugary juices and treats to special occasions. Choosing foods and drinks that do not contain a lot of sugar can help prevent cavities and can also help promote healthy diet choices.
It is important for families to know what to look for when it comes to dental concerns. If a child’s teeth are healthy, they should be one color. If they are not and you begin to notice that their teeth have spots or stains, be sure to bring them to the dentist.
Even if your child does not experience any dental concerns as their teeth start to come in, you should bring them to the dentist by their first birthday to continue to avoid dental problems. As your child gets older, continue to promote good dental health by explaining why brushing and flossing are so important.