As soon as you bring your baby home, parents have to start caring for their tiny mouths and gums. In order to keep your baby happy and healthy, infant oral care should start even before the baby’s teeth come in. For parents new to caring for a baby’s teeth and gums, it can feel a bit overwhelming on top of all those other parenting duties. Luckily, there are plenty of tips that will help you keep your baby’s oral health in perfect condition. Here are our top 5 infant oral care tips for parents.
1. Don’t Let Babies Sleep with Bottles
When you put your baby to sleep with a bottle, they may fall asleep with the bottle in their mouth. This results in the teeth experiencing a prolonged exposure to the milk or other liquid in the bottle. When this liquid is left to pool around the teeth, plaque can build up on the teeth. If your child regularly sleeps with a bottle, they can develop caries on their teeth from tooth decay. This is colloquially known as “baby bottle decay”.
Baby bottle decay most often affects the front teeth. It can appear as visible signs of decay like black or brown spots on the tooth, but it can also cause swollen gums. If your baby shows any symptoms, be sure to book an appointment to get them the proper infant oral care right away.
The good news about baby bottle decay is that it’s completely avoidable. Keep your baby’s teeth healthy by avoiding putting them to sleep with a bottle. If they feed at night, hold them while they drink from the bottle, then remove the bottle when they’re done. This limits the teeth’s exposure to the liquid and thus helps reduce plaque buildup.
2. Clean Your Baby’s Gums and Teeth
Even before you baby’s first teeth come in, there are infant oral care steps you can take to ensure that their mouth and gums are healthy. After your baby eats, wipe down their gums with a warm, wet washcloth or a damp piece of gauze wrapped around your finger.
Be sure to start taking care of your baby’s teeth as soon as they start to come in. Your baby’s teeth usually start to erupt at around 6 months of age. You can clean your baby’s first teeth with a warm, wet washcloth, or use a soft-bristled toothbrush and water. This prevents any plaque from building up, which can result in tooth decay. Be sure to clean their gums as well.
At 18 months, you can start using a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste when brushing your baby’s teeth. Your child can spit out the toothpaste, but shouldn’t rinse.
3. Get Them to the Dentist On Time
Many children don’t see a dentist for the first time until they are over two years old. However, this is actually much later than most dentists recommend. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that babies have their first dental appointment within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth or before they are one year old, whichever comes first.
Initial visits to your infant’s dentist are primarily informative, and the dentists can answer any questions that parents may have about caring for their infant’s teeth.
Scheduling your baby for regular dental check ups for infant oral care as soon as their teeth come in means that any developing issues will be caught early. Catching these problems early means that your baby’s dentist can prevent any real, lasting damage from occurring to your child’s teeth.
4. Feed Them Healthy Foods and Drinks
The realm of infant oral care also extends into their diet. A healthy, balanced diet is a major component of healthy teeth and gums. Babies can usually start eating solid food at around 6 months of age, and they can eat a wide variety of foods, similar to what you and the rest of the family are eating.
Making the right snack choices for your child can go a long way for their dental health. Avoid sticky or chewy foods that can get stuck to teeth and contribute to plaque buildup. Refined starchy foods like white bread or potato chips can also be bad for teeth.
Often, parents think that fruit juice is a healthier alternative than other sugary drinks for small children. However, fruit juices are often loaded with added sugar. Even juices with no sugar added still contain natural sugars from fruits. It’s not recommended for babies under 12 months to have fruit juice, and older children should still steer clear of it. That sugar can linger on your child’s teeth and become a breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria. Stick to water or milk.
5. Teach by Example
As they grow up, your baby will follow the example that you as a parent set for them. As such, it’s important for you and the rest of your family to follow proper oral hygiene habits. Be a good example for your child as they start to grow up. Be sure that you and your child are brushing and flossing twice a day. If your child notices that you skip brushing your teeth, they’ll begin to think that those habits are okay.
Once you have a plan of action, infant oral care will become as second nature as taking care of your own teeth. Making a concerted effort to lean and care for your baby’s new teeth will help set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth. Make sure to schedule your infant’s first dental appointment in a timely manner — within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth or by the time they reach one year old. To make an appointment, contact Children’s Dentistry today.