Children Should See the Dentist Before Their First Birthday
Although babies under age 1 may only have a couple of teeth or none, they are still at risk to develop early tooth decay. There are many habits parents and children may develop that can lead to tooth decay. Since tooth decay is a disease, even though your child only has baby teeth, it can still manifest into permanent teeth and cause painful infections. Caring for baby teeth correctly is extremely important for future dental health. Before age 1 or when the first tooth appears, parents should schedule their first pediatric dental appointment.
Here are some tips for our youngest patients and their parents:
Wipe or brush gums and teeth
Bath time is a great time to clean baby’s teeth. They may not quite be ready for a toothbrush, so start with a washcloth. Keeping gums, the tongue, and anything else food could attach to as clean as possible, is very important. A soft cloth should wipe away any dangerous substances. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to acclimate your child to tooth brushing. Make sure to start with a soft toothbrush when your child is ready and brush or wipe two times per day.
Use fluoride toothpaste and floss when multiple teeth appear
Afraid your child may spit out or reject toothpaste? If you start with it early, you are less likely to meet resistance. Don’t use too much because some younger children won’t be able to spit it out, but if you use toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice, it should work. Always choose a fluoride toothpaste at this age. If you aren’t ready to use toothpaste, be sure to wipe thoroughly enough to get all food pieces that may have lodged themselves around their mouth.
Flossing should begin as soon as teeth start growing in next to each other. Good habits start early!
Limit snacking. Those particles can increase cavity risks
Some kids love to snack all day, but if they aren’t brushing or getting their mouths clean in between, they run the risk of gathering food particles that can lead to cavities, even if the snacks are healthy. If your child is a snacker, try to spread the snacks out for longer than a half hour to limit the amount of acid and bacteria that can form around the teeth where food particles may be present.
Be extra watchful if your child loves carbohydrates and sweets
The biggest cause of cavities, aside from genetic predisposition, is diet. When kids eat sticky foods like crackers and candy, they can cling to the teeth and, within 20 minutes, begin to break down the tooth. It takes three hours for the saliva to undo the damage done in 20 minutes.
No more bottles before bedtime
Breaking the habit of a bottle before bed may seem very intimidating to a parent. Of course, you don’t want to affect a child’s sleep patterns by removing this soothing event from their bedtime routine. However, you will be surprised to see that your child may not even notice. Bottles before bed expose your child’s teeth to sugars, and can also put your child at risk for ear infections and choking. Milk can stay pooled in their mouths and wreak havoc on their teeth, as well as dribble down their throats to cause choking after they’ve already been put to sleep.