Your baby might not have any teeth yet, but infant oral care is a must if you want to reduce the chances of cavities later on, and it should start the day he is born. Simply getting your child used to having his mouth cleaned is a critical start.
According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 42 percent of kids between the ages of two and 11 have tooth decay, and 23 percent have untreated dental caries. When it comes to protecting your baby's teeth and gums, a bit of effort goes a long way, and the earlier the better.
Cleaning The Gums
Although you don't have to use a toothbrush or toothpaste until the first tooth pops up, cleaning the gums after feeding will remove bacteria and sugar from the mouth, and you do want him or her to get used to that process. To clean your baby's gums, wrap a clean, damp washcloth around your finger and gently rub the gums with it.
Better Out Than In
Another part of infant oral care is being careful about what you put in your baby's mouth – or what they put in their mouth themselves. Tooth decay and cavities are caused by bacteria, and are therefore considered an infection. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, these problems can spread if unclean objects make it into your baby's mouth. One way to cut down on the spread of bacteria is to not share anything that's been in your own mouth, such as utensils or toothbrushes. You can also protect your baby's mouth by always rinsing pacifiers and bottle nipples with water, not saliva.
Care for the First Teeth
Once your child gets that first tooth, it's time to break out the soft-bristled toothbrush and a very small amount of toothpaste. Pick a fluoride-free toothpaste, such as My First Colgate™, which has a mild flavor and is safe if your baby swallows a little accidentally. Use a baby toothbrush that is sized to fit comfortably in a smaller mouth.
Get in the habit of brushing your baby's teeth twice daily from the moment his first tooth appears. Gently brush the tooth with the toothbrush, making sure you get all sides and the gums surrounding it. Once multiple teeth are present, you can start flossing, to remove debris that can get stuck between adjacent teeth. Although these baby teeth fall out in time, it's important to take good care of them so they don't fall out prematurely. Healthy baby teeth mark the space where the permanent teeth will reside, while helping your child learn to chew and pronounce words properly.
First Dental Visit
The first few teeth to come in also help mark the time for that first visit to the dentist. The American Dental Association recommends having your baby see a dentist by the time he turns one. Consider seeing a pediatric dentist, who's specially trained in the care of a child's mouth. Your baby's first dental visit is also a good opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have. If you're unsure if you're brushing your baby's teeth correctly, or want to know what to expect when it comes to teething, this first visit is the time to ask them.
Infant oral care is just the beginning of a lifelong habit of good oral hygiene. If you ever face problems with caring for your baby's teeth, the dentist is there for you. But being prepared with what to use and when to use it will make each visit as easy as the last.