Oral Health for Infants
A child is never too young for their parents to begin employing good oral health practices. Even in infancy, there are daily activities to help maintain a child’s oral health and build a solid foundation for the rest of their lives. Here are some recommendations and best practices that parents can follow with their infants to enhance oral health.
Good oral health before the first teeth
Many parents are under the false assumption that the oral health of their infant is not an issue until the first teeth begin to appear. This is an understandable outlook, but it’s now a commonly held belief in the oral health field that proactive steps can be taken at a very young age to better promote healthy outcomes.
The bacteria that causes cavities can be passed from parent to child, even before a child has their first tooth, and even if the parent brushes their child's teeth regularly. Believe it or not, babies are actually born without cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths, so in addition to practicing good oral health habits early, it’s also smart to limit activities where bacteria can be passed along to your child, such as sharing a spoon or cleaning off a pacifier with your mouth.
While you’re waiting for your baby’s teeth to grow in, gently clean the gums twice a day with a clean, wet washcloth. When the baby’s teeth start to come in, keep up the routine so the teeth stay strong and healthy. The lower teeth typically appear after eight months, followed by the upper teeth at ten months.
Baby’s first teeth
Caring for a baby’s teeth is a very important step to promote good overall health and limit cavity-causing bacteria. When that first baby tooth appears, you can introduce toothpaste. Take a small amount of toothpaste and smear it on the tooth to clean it and coat it with fluoride.
Later, as a baby begins teething, use a soft toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste to brush your baby’s teeth. How much toothpaste? When teeth first emerge, you should use a smear of toothpaste and work your way up to a pea-sized amount by age three.
In addition to brushing your baby’s teeth, it’s important to find them a “dental home,” or a specifically designated dental practice where they can receive ongoing care. Once you’ve found the right dentist for your child, he or she should visit before their first birthday. By establishing this relationship early, your dental team will be able to identify any other risk factor that could impact your child’s health and provide guidance to help you keep them healthy.