Early Infant Oral Care:
Perinatal & Infant Oral Health:
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling during pregnancy. Research has shown evidence that periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Talk to your doctor or dentist about ways you can prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy. Additionally, mothers with poor oral health may be at greater risk of passing the bacteria which causes cavities to their young children. Mothers should follow these simple steps to decrease the risk of spreading cavity-causing bacteria:
- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Brush and floss on a regular basis to reduce bacterial plaque.
- Proper diet, with the reduction of beverages and foods high in sugar & starch.
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste recommended by the ADA and rinse every night with an alcohol-free, over-the-counter mouth rinse with 0.05% sodium fluoride in order to reduce plaque levels.
- Don’t share utensils, cups or food with can cause the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to your children.
- Use of xylitol chewing gum by the mother may decrease a child’s caries rate.
When Will My Baby Start Getting Teeth?
Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. Some babies get their teeth early and some get them late. In general, the first baby teeth to appear are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth and they usually begin erupting between the age of 6-8 months. See “Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth” for more details.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries):
One serious form of decay among children is baby bottle tooth decay. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.
Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sugary liquids pool around the child’s teeth giving the plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you do give your baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water.
Sippy cups should be used as a training tool from the bottle to a cup. If your child uses a sippy cup throughout the day, fill the sippy cup with water only (except at mealtimes). Filling the sippy cup with liquids that contain sugar (including milk, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.) and allowing a child to drink from it throughout the day, gives plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attach to tooth enamel all day long.
Care Of Your Child’s Teeth
- As soon as your child’s teeth erupt, brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Under the age of 3 years: use a grain of rice-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- 3+ years old: use a pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- Use an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste.
- Children need an adult to brush their teeth until 8 years old.
- Brush 2 times a day (morning and before bed).
- Flossing removes plaque between teeth and under the gum line where a toothbrush can’t reach.
- Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch.
- Children need an adult to floss their teeth until 12 years old.
- Floss every night before bed.
Good Diet = Healthy Teeth
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. A lot of common snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks on carbohydrates and sugars, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, sticky dried fruits and crackers stay in the mouth a long time, which causes longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. When your child snacks, choose nutritious protein-based foods such as vegetables, nuts, meats and cheeses, which don’t lead to acid attacking the teeth.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element, which has shown to prevent tooth decay by as much as 50-70%. Too little or too much fluoride can be detrimental to the teeth. With little or no fluoride, the teeth aren’t strengthened to help them resist cavities. Excessive fluoride ingestion by young children can lead to dental fluorosis, which is typically a chalky white discoloration (brown in advanced cases) of the permanent teeth. Be sure to follow your pediatric dentist’s instructions on suggested fluoride use.
Just remember to use a fluoride toothpaste in the recommended amounts: the size of a grain of rice for a child less than 3 years of age. For children above 3 years old, use a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste. Remember that children less than 8 years old do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively on their own.
When a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your child’s smile, and should be used during any activity that could result in impact to the face or mouth.
Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will comfortably stay in place while your child is wearing it.
Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and store-bought mouth guards.
Beware of Sports Drinks
Due to the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks, they have erosive potential and the ability to dissolve even fluoride-rich enamel, which leads to cavities.
Children should avoid sports drinks and hydrate with water before, during and after sports.
If sports drinks are consumed:
- Reduce the frequency and contact time (duration).
- Swallow immediately and do not swish them around the mouth.
- Neutralize the effect of sports drinks by alternating sips of water with the drink.