Oral health begins at birth. Caring for your baby’s oral health is important to prevent tooth decay. It can also help set the stage for good dental care habits as your baby grows. Poor oral health can lead to infections or other dental problems. Start early on your baby’s oral health to avoid tooth decay and treasure that healthy smile!
Cleaning your baby’s gums
Oral health begins before your baby’s first teeth. Begin by wiping your baby’s gums with a clean, moist washcloth. Wrap the cloth around your index finger and gentle massage the gums. Clean the gums after each feeding or at least twice (2) a day.
Brushing your infant’s first teeth
Most often, a baby will have their two (2) front bottom teeth come in when they are around 4-10 months old. Baby teeth are very important for your child’s health and development. They help your baby chew, speak, and smile. They also hold space for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.
As soon as the first teeth appear, tooth decay can occur. Brush your baby’s teeth gently in small circular motions with a small, soft toothbrush. Brush their teeth twice (2) a day with a grain-sized amount or a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to brush all surfaces of each tooth to prevent tooth decay. Click here for tips to help you brush your baby’s teeth as they grow.
Preventing baby bottle tooth decay
Many factors can cause tooth decay. Sugar in formula, milk, or juice can cause severe tooth decay when it sits on a baby’s teeth for long periods of time. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a baby bottle, or when a baby bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. This condition is known as baby bottle tooth decay or early childhood caries.
Here are some ways to prevent baby bottle tooth decay:
- Do not allow your baby to sleep with a bottle in their mouth containing formula, milk, juice, or other sweetened liquids.
- Try switching out the sweetened liquid with safe tap water just before bed.
- You can also remove the bottle from your baby’s mouth as he/she falls asleep.
Baby bottle tooth decay can also be passed from person to person. The cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from the mother or primary caregiver to the infant. When a mother places the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, bacteria can be passed to the baby.
Take the following steps to help prevent passing cavity-causing bacteria directly to your infant:
- Do not share toothbrushes, utensils, or cups with your baby.
- If your baby uses a pacifier, clean it with a sterile washcloth and water.
- Never dip a pacifier into honey or anything sweet before giving it to a baby.
Baby’s first dental visit
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the first dental visit take place within six months after the first tooth appears, but no later than a child’s first birthday. Your baby’s first dental visit may include the following dental services:
- Perform a basic exam of your baby’s first teeth and look for signs of cavities.
- Check your infant’s jaw and teeth to ensure they are developing properly.
- Provide you with guidance on how to take care of your infant’s teeth as they grow.