Beginning an oral health routine with your child at an early age is important for the life of his/her smile. Baby teeth are so important because of their key role of saving space for a child’s permanent teeth. They stay in a child’s mouth for 8-10 years and affect their speaking, chewing, and of course, smiling. Baby teeth can also indicate a child’s overall quality of health. Untreated tooth decay can cause oral infections that enter the bloodstream and lead to other serious health problems, while also allowing bacteria to spread to new adult teeth.
While daily brushing is an important part of a child’s oral hygiene routine, bacteria that causes tooth decay can still linger between teeth where the toothbrush can’t reach, just like adult’s teeth. That’s why it’s so important to help your kids incorporate flossing in their daily routine.
One significant oral health risk for infants and young children under the age of 1 is from baby bottle tooth decay. This occurs when your child consumes sugary liquids or those with natural sugars (like milk, formula and fruit juice) cling to an infant’s teeth for a long time. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth. If your child needs to sleep with a bottle, water is the safest option without any risk.
The following oral health tips are recommended by pediatric dentists to start your little ones on their journey to a lifetime of healthy smiles.
- Schedule routine check-ups. If it’s been more than six months since your child has seen a dentist, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
- Clean your baby’s gums daily. Until those teeth come in, gently wipe a damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria after each feeding.
- Start brushing with the first tooth. Begin brushing your baby’s teeth when you see one coming in with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste.
- Begin flossing. Once your children’s teeth touch, you can start flossing in between them.
- Snack healthy! Fruit juice, sports drinks, fruit snacks and sticky sweets all pose serious threats to your child’s teeth. Give calcium-rich snacks like cheese or low-sugar yogurt. If you want to give them sweets as a treat – a chocolate bar is preferable to gummy or sticky sweets that can get lodged in between the teeth.
- Keep them hydrated! Avoid sugary drinks and stick to good old-fashioned water. Water helps to rinse away any sugar or particles that can lead to cavities.
- Replace your child’s toothbrush every three to four months.
Remember that healthy baby teeth will lead to healthy permanent teeth.