We all know that taking care of our teeth is important, but did you know that it's just as important to take care of your baby's teeth? Yes, even those little ones need to have their gums and teeth cleaned! Here are some tips on how to take care of your infant's or toddler's oral care.
Why is oral care important for infants and toddlers?
It’s important to start taking care
of your child’s teeth and gums as soon as they come in. Good oral hygiene habits
will help prevent cavities, gum disease, and other problems.
Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases in children. They occur when bacteria in the mouth turn sugar into acid, which then wears away at the tooth
enamel. Without treatment, cavities can cause pain, trouble eating, and infections.
Tooth decay is preventable
. You can help protect your child’s teeth by:
-wiping their gums with a clean cloth after each feeding (breastfeeding or bottle-feeding)
-brushing their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste as soon as they have two teeth that touch
-taking them to the dentist by their first birthday, or sooner if recommended by their dentist
How can I help my infant or toddler develop good oral care habits?
There are a few things you can do to help your infant or toddler develop good oral care habits:
-Start early. You can start cleaning your baby's gums even before their teeth
come in. Use a soft, wet cloth or gauze pad to gently wipe the gums after each feeding.
-Make oral care part of your daily routine. brush your child's teeth for them twice a day, and help them learn to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. As they get older, you can gradually teach them to brush their own teeth.
-Encourage healthy eating habits. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products will help keep your child's teeth and gums healthy. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks, which can contribute to tooth decay.
-Take them to the dentist regularly. Schedule a visit with the dentist when your child gets their first tooth, and then every six months after that. This will help ensure that their teeth and gums are healthy and that any problems are caught early
What should I do if my infant or toddler has a cavity?
If your infant or toddler has a cavity, it's important to seek treatment right away. While cavities in infants and toddlers are not as common as they are in older children, they can still occur.
If left untreated, cavities can cause pain and infection, and can lead to more serious problems such as tooth decay. Treatment for cavities in infants and toddlers may involve drilling and filling the cavity, or extracting the tooth
If you think your infant or toddler may have a cavity, see your dentist as soon as possible for an evaluation.
How can I prevent cavities in my infant or toddler?
Cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth that make acids that eat away at tooth enamel. You can help prevent cavities in your infant or toddler by:
-Wiping your baby's gums with a clean, damp cloth after each feeding.
-Brushing your baby's teeth twice a day with water and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
-Taking your child to the dentist by his or her first birthday.
What are some signs that my infant or toddler may have a dental problem?
There are a few things to watch out for when it comes to your child’s teeth and gums:
-Bad breath that doesn’t go away
-White spots or streaks on the teeth
-Red, swollen or bleeding gums
-Toothache or pain when chewing
-A sore or irritation inside the mouth
-Difficulty swallowing or eating
If you notice any of these signs, be sure to take your child to see a dentist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment of dental
problems can help prevent more serious issues down the road.
When should I take my infant or toddler to the dentist?
You should take your infant or toddler to the dentist when their first tooth erupts, but no later than their first birthday. The earlier you take them, the better! This allows the dentist to get to know your child and helps establish a “dental home” for preventive care
, treatment, and education for you and your child.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
(AAPD), recommends that children have a “dental home” by 12 months of age. A “dental home” is defined as “a place where a child can receive comprehensive oral health care including regular check-ups, cleanings, fluoride treatments, dental sealants
, and oral health education.”
It is important to establish a “dental home” early because:
-Cavities are largely preventable, but they are the most common chronic childhood disease – 5 times more common than asthma!
-Tooth decay can cause pain and infections that can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.
-Untreated tooth decay can also cause severe infection that may lead to hospitalization.
What can I expect during my infant or toddler's dental visit?
During the dental visit, the dentist or hygienist will:
- Examine your child's teeth and gums
- Check for decay
- Assess your child's risk for tooth decay
- Help you understand your child's oral health needs
- Give you information about fluoride
- Give you tips on how to care for your child's teeth
How can I care for my infant or toddler's teeth at home?
To care for your infant or toddler's teeth at home:
-Start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they come in. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
-Help your child brush their teeth until they are at least 7 years old.
-Encourage your child to Spit out the toothpaste after brushing, rather than swallowing it.
In addition to regular brushing, you can also:
-Use fluoride mouthwash to help prevent cavities. Look for a mouthwash that has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
-Limit sugary drinks and snacks. Too much sugar can cause cavities.
What are some common myths about infant and toddler oral care?
One common myth
is that baby teeth aren’t important because they’re going to fall out anyway. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Baby teeth are important for several reasons. They help your child learn to speak and eat, and they also hold space in the mouth for adult teeth. Another myth is that sugary drinks aren’t harmful to baby teeth since they’re going to fall out anyway. However, sugary drinks can actually damage baby teeth and lead to cavities. It’s important to start oral care early and establish good habits that will last a lifetime!
Where can I find more information about infant and toddler oral care?
The American Dental Association (ADA) offers several resources that can provide parents with more information about infant and toddler oral care. The ADA's website has articles on a variety of topics related to oral care for infants and toddlers, including teething, cleaning your child's teeth
, and how to prevent cavities. In addition, the ADA's Mouth Healthy Kids website has games and activities specifically designed for children aged 2-5 years old. Finally, the ADA also offers a free iPhone and iPad app called "Orajel mouth healthy kids", which provides tips on infant and toddler oral care, as well as games and activities for kids.