Oral Health For Baby

A child’s first teeth known as primary teeth are key to healthy adult teeth. Primary teeth hold a space for permanent teeth. If your child loses a tooth because of decay, the permanent tooth may erupt at an angle, causing crowding of the adult teeth. Early tooth loss can also affect speech patterns, chewing abilities and the use of the tongue.

There are 20 primary teeth. They usually erupt beginning with the central incisors (bottom or top front middle teeth) at 6-12 months, and ending with the second primary molars shortly after age 2. The central incisors generally begin to get loose between ages 4 and 5. All 20 teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth by the age of 12. The three permanent molars that erupt behind the primary second molar only come in as adult teeth and do not get replaced.

Early Childhood Caries (Cavities) (ECC)

Diet plays a significant role in the development of ECC
Sugars: Oral bacteria thrive in an environment that is rich in carbohydrates. When sugar combines with plaque, an acid is created that removes calcium from the teeth. When the teeth are free of acid, the calcium, carried in saliva, moves back to the teeth. Cavities form when more calcium is removed from the teeth than returns over a long period of time.

There are natural sugars present in many of the nutritional foods we want children to eat – including dairy foods, grain, fruits and vegetables. Therefore, it is not possible or desirable to remove all carbohydrates and sugars from the diet. Instead, the goal is to give children the right amount of the right sugars, and at the right time.

Breastfeeding and baby bottles

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that babies be weaned off the bottle or nursing at the age of 12 months and taught to use a cup. Some studies have shown that longer term breastfeeding can be associated with increased acid production. Frequent nighttime bottle feeding, when saliva flow is at its lowest, also increases the risk of ECC. Sending a baby to bed with a bottle significantly increases the risk of ECC.

Daily care for infants and toddlers

Keep your own teeth and gums as healthy as possible to minimize transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to your child.

Develop a routine for cleaning your baby’s mouth. Wipe baby’s gums using a clean, wet cloth or piece of gauze after each feeding.

Gently clean newly erupted teeth with a gauze or washcloth or use a small soft toothbrush without toothpaste.

Keep non-nutritious, sugary fruit punches and other drinks out of baby bottles
If you do use a bottle at naptime or bedtime, avoid juices, use plain water instead.

Never dip soothers in anything sweet

If your baby is on liquid medication, rinse and brush the mouth with water immediately after use as most medications are sweetened.

Generally, the first dental visit should be made by age 3 or sooner (as soon as all of the baby teeth have erupted). Certainly, if you have any concerns, they should be seen sooner.

With good oral care, all children can grow up cavity-free. The habits you help them develop now will last throughout their lives.

12-24 months Teach your toddler to hold a brush and let them brush their own teeth if they wish but continue to brush their teeth for them either before or after they have done their own cleaning. If possible, begin flossing once all of the primary teeth are in.

2-5 years Teach children to brush using a minimum amount of toothpaste (pea-sized). Continue to brush and floss for them as necessary.

6 years Monitor their brushing and teach them to floss if you feel it’s appropriate.

By practicing good oral care habits you can enjoy a healthy, beautiful smile for life!