If you think that your baby’s toothless grin is precious – just wait for their dazzling smile in their high school graduations picture!
Brilliant, beautiful smiles don’t just happen; they are made. And, it all starts the minute you hold that little bundle of joy in your arms.
Some people think that the care of baby teeth is not important since the tooth falls out anyway. But baby teeth are VERY important to your child’s health and development. They help them chew, speak and smile. Baby teeth hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth that are developing under the gums. When a baby tooth is lost prematurely, the permanent teeth may shift into the empty space and make it difficult for other teeth to find room when they come in. This can cause crooked teeth and over-crowding. That’s why starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for years to come.
Here are 10 oral health tips for your baby and toddler:
1. Breastfed is best.
The nutrition it provides can help form a foundation for a lifetime of good health.
2. Don’t put your child to bed with a bottle.
When babies fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth some of the milk/juice stays in the mouth and can cause tooth decay.
Not only that – their risk of choking and ear infection increases as well.
3. Start them using a cup at age 6 months.
Toddlers from 1-3 years should ONLY use a cup – not a bottle – to help with proper jaw/teeth alignment and provide the foundation for correct chewing and speech.
4. Water is the best drink.
For babies under a year, boil and cool tap water. If your municipality has fluoride in the water – this will help protect your child’s teeth
from decay. Bottled water DOES NOT have fluoride in it!
5. Plain milk – not flavored – is a healthy drink choice.
Milk contains calcium which helps make teeth and bones strong. Children over 12 months can drink full fat cow’s milk.
After 2 years of age, low fat milk is acceptable and advisable. Flavored milks have added sugar…and sugar causes tooth decay.
6. Kids don’t need fruit juice.
Most fruit juices have added sugar. Even naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruits can cause tooth decay. Diet drinks contain acids which can also damage teeth.
7. Healthy food yields healthy teeth.
Babies can begin eating solids at around 6 months of age. At that time they have no preference for sweetness…so start them out right and introduce healthy foods early.
AND don’t get into a habit of using sugary foods as a reward.
8. Visit the dentist early.
After the first tooth comes in and no later than the first birthday, a dental visit is advised for a “well-baby checkup” for teeth. Besides checking for cavities and other problems, the dentist can show you how to clean the child’s teeth properly and how to handle habits like thumb sucking. There are some free or low-cost dental care services available to children.
9. Oral health is a family affair.
…you know what they say, The family that brushes together…Set a good example.
10. Start good routines BEFORE teeth even appear!
Rub gums with a moistened gauze or soft washcloth rapped around your finger. Start a brushing routine when the
first tooth appears – use about a grain of rice-sized toothpaste and a VERY soft, VERY small toothbrush – and continue good oral hygiene to reap a lifetime of health benefits!