At Weaver and Stratton Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we care about your child’s oral health and want them to have the best dental experience possible. You should begin by providing proper care for your infant or toddler’s teeth and gums at home. This guarantees them the best chance at having a healthy smile for life and a well-maintained hygiene routine as they age.
We welcome you to review our guide below for information regarding the proper care of infant and toddler oral health. If you have any questions, contact our office today!
Caring for Your Child’s Gums
Taking proper care of your child’s oral health starts even before they have their first tooth. By keeping their gums clean and healthy, you can avoid the development of irritation or gum disease.
Clean your child’s mouth gently with a soft moist cloth or gauze pad. It is important that you use a fresh area of the cloth each time; using the same dirty cloth can contaminate the area you are cleaning. Also, be careful about cleaning your child’s mouth if you have sharp fingernails; this could scratch the delicate gum tissue.
Your Baby’s First Tooth
You will notice your baby getting their first tooth when they are about six to twelve months old. This is an exciting time for both you and your child. You will want to do everything you can to keep that tooth healthy, which means cleaning it every day until more teeth start coming in. The best way to clean a baby’s first tooth is with a baby toothbrush dipped in clean water.
Baby toothbrushes come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Look for a soft bristle brush that has a small head, so it can comfortably fit in their mouth. If your baby has a poor reaction to the new toothbrush, switch back to using the gauze and washcloth for a few months before trying again.
It’s important to be patient with this transition, to encourage a healthy relationship with dentistry from the beginning.
Brushing with Toothpaste
Once a few more teeth begin to emerge, it’s time to begin using toothpaste. There are many options and flavors available, but it’s important to pick a product that does not include fluoride. While babies are still learning about their oral hygiene routine, they may attempt to swallow the toothpaste. Since ingesting fluoride can be harmful, you should only use fluoride-free toothpaste until they can spit it out.
Cavities are the most common chronic childhood disease. They develop when bacteria in plaque use sugar from food and drink to make acids that attack teeth. A build-up of plaque along with the sugars can also lead to gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease, which can be harmful to a child’s oral and overall health.
Any food or drink that contains sugars (even naturally occurring fruits) can raise the risk for tooth decay. That includes juice, soda, cookies, cakes, candy, and ice cream. However, you don’t need to worry if your child has had these foods in moderation; what matters is how often and how long the food remains on the teeth.
Parents play an important role in preventing tooth decay, and you can prevent cavities from occurring by following the below guidelines:
- Don’t let your child go to bed with a bottle filled with anything, including juice or milk. If you do, clean the teeth thoroughly before bedtime.
- Avoid sticky foods like dried fruit or candies that can stick to teeth and gums.
- Keep candy out of reach. It’s best to limit it to special occasions, after the first birthday.
- Have your child’s teeth checked every six months at our office.
- Clean your child’s teeth after each meal, or at least twice a day.
If you have questions about caring for your child’s teeth, contact our office and we will be happy to help!
First Visit to the Dentist
Your baby should visit our office within six months of their first tooth emerging. This gives us time to provide feedback, examine their teeth and gums, and catch any problems before they become more serious. In addition, by bringing your child to us as early as possible, they can become more adapted to the dental care process and more comfortable in our office.
By bringing your child before 18 months of age, they are eligible for a free examination.
Infant Oral Health & Setting a Good Example
During a child’s early years, they are susceptible to observing the world around them and mimicking behaviors, words, and actions. This can be used to your advantage when teaching them about dentistry! A great way to instill healthy dental habits for your child is to have them watch you care for your teeth. Allow them to observe how you brush and floss and tell them how exciting and beneficial the process is! Afterward, encourage them to give it a try themselves.
Children lack the ability to properly clean their teeth until they are between the ages of six and eight, so they will require help until then. Make sure you do your part to help them brush and floss; you can also encourage this activity by allowing them to pick their own toothbrush, toothpaste, and colorful flossers!
What Is Normal Thumb-Sucking Behavior?
Thumb-sucking is a natural behavior that children tend to rely on for comfort; this activity can continue until the ages of two or four. While during this time it is considered normal, it’s encouraged to begin attempting to break the child of the habit by giving them other activities to do with their hands or bringing them another source of comfort (stuffed animal, blanket, etc).
Many children grow out of this behavior on their own over time; however, if you find that your child is still sucking their thumb once they get older or is experiencing problems with their teeth, call our office for a visit and learn how you can support them in breaking this habit.
How Can I Help My Child Quit Thumb-Sucking?
- Always be supportive and do not punish your child. Simply offer praise when they do not suck their thumb.
- Encourage them to get creative with crafts or toys that keep their hands busy.
- Offer gentle reminders if you see them sucking their thumb.
- Inform them what can happen to their teeth if they continue participating in the behavior.