From the moment your baby is born, you are reminded to schedule well-baby exams to measure growth and development and ensure he or she is in good health. You may have been reminded that your child should see a dentist before his or her first birthday, but with all that comes with a growing baby, oral health and development may not always be top of mind. In this blog, we’ll provide 10 tips to help you build a strong foundation for your child’s oral health from day one.
No more bottle at bedtime
It’s no secret that sleep can be a lost luxury with a growing baby, so it can be tempting to put them to bed with a bottle of milk or juice and let them fall asleep. The problem is that when sweeteners in juices or the natural sugars in milk cling to teeth for too long, decay begins to occur, also known as baby bottle tooth decay. And your baby’s saliva production and flow decrease during sleep, increasing the chances of decay. If you do give your child milk or juice before bed, try to follow it with water or wipe the gums/teeth with a damp cloth before putting them down. If you just can’t break the bottle in bed routine, make it water.
Take away the pacifier
Another comforting staple for baby is the pacifier. These lifesavers can help coax an overtired baby into sleep or prevent angry glances in public places when the screaming begins. As helpful as they can be to comfort your baby, they can be just as harmful to their developing mouths. Using a pacifier for too long can cause misalignment of teeth and lead to larger dental problems later in life. This goes for thumb sucking as well, which can also affect alignment and the development of the roof of their mouth. It’s also best to lose the bottle sooner rather than later. Make the transition to a sippy cup as soon as it’s no longer nutritionally necessary to use a bottle.
Start brushing early
It may seem odd to think of cleaning your baby’s mouth before they have any teeth, however, this can be an important step in building a solid oral health routine. When your child’s mouth is nothing but pink, use a damp cloth or your finger to clean his or her gums after feedings. And as soon as that first pearly white appears, get out the toothbrush and start brushing.
In the beginning, be sure to find a toothbrush with soft bristles and just use water to prevent your baby from swallowing too much fluoride. When you want to introduce toothpaste, start with a small rice size amount.
It may be helpful to lay your baby down to brush, especially if you have a squirmy toddler. This ensures that you can reach all areas of their mouth and gets them prepared to lay down in the dentist’s chair. You’ll likely have to help your child brush until age 4 or 5. Make sure you explain how to hold the brush and the correct motions to reach all parts of the tooth. And you’ll still want to supervise until at least 6 or 7 to be sure the job is getting done correctly, maybe longer if the rebellion phase starts early.
The best way to be certain your child is brushing his or her teeth is to make it fun and part of your family’s routine, both morning and night. You can have your child choose a fun song to brush to, pick out a toothbrush with their favorite character or make it a contest – whose mouth is the cleanest? There are even apps you can download with games that encourage kids to brush.
Make flossing a habit
And just when you thought we were already asking too much, we’re going to throw in flossing. You’ve been reminded time and time again that it’s not enough to just brush your teeth and how important it is to floss. Well, it’s just as important for your child.
And just as you should start brushing early, flossing should start as soon as two teeth touch. Again, be sure to explain to your child how to floss properly (or have Dr. Lenz and his team explain it) and make it another part of your family’s everyday routine.
Be a role model
We all know the expression “Monkey see, monkey do.” As parents, we know that this phrase sums up the behavior of children, especially between the ages of 18 and 27 months. Use this as an opportunity to become a positive role model for your child and make you are following a proper oral health care routine. This includes brushing your teeth twice per day for two minutes each time, flossing once per day, and eating a tooth-friendly diet.
Feed them a healthy diet
You know you need to feed your child a balanced diet for healthy growth and development. The same goes for their oral health. Choose fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and dairy products and limit high-sugar foods and drinks. And remember that you’re a role model. You can’t expect your child to snack on carrot sticks and water if you’re munching on chips and slurping down a soda.
Fluoride should also be included in your diet. While it’s not something you consciously ingest, it plays an important role in maintaining a healthy mouth. Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps the enamel of your teeth more resistant to tooth decay. Make sure you and your family are drinking fluoridated tap water and brushing with a fluoride toothpaste.
Watch for signs of development issues
Just as you watch the growth and development of your child’s arms and legs, be mindful of how his or her mouth is developing. This can include issues with the jaw line, how teeth are coming in and when, or if you see your child having trouble swallowing or chewing.
Make sure they have proper protection during sports/activities
When your child starts getting active and joining sports teams, you’ll need to have the necessary equipment, and that often requires protective gear. Don’t forget about their teeth! If your child is participating in contact sports, make sure they are wearing a mouth guard.
Sports aren’t the only place your child needs protection. Swimming pools are the #1 cause of dental emergencies in the summer. Make sure your child knows the rules for safety before performing any activity.
Know what to do when they lose a tooth
The promise of the tooth fairy has made losing baby teeth an exciting and profitable feat. Whether or not the tooth fairy visits your household, make sure your child is prepared for the inevitable loss of their baby teeth and help them understand the process of gaining and caring for their permanent teeth.
If your child loses a tooth (baby or permanent) due to injury, know how to properly care for the tooth and call Uptown Dental right away. Find the missing tooth and try to reattach it, but avoid touching the root. If it’s not possible to put the tooth back in your child’s mouth, place it in a clean container of milk, saliva or salt water and take them to see the dentist as soon as possible.
Visit Dr. Lenz at Uptown Dental twice per year
The best thing you can do for your child’s teeth is to have them seen by a dentist regularly to ensure they are healthy and developing properly. Prepare your child for what to expect at the dentist and make the visit a positive experience. Make sure to schedule teeth cleanings and checkups with Dr. Lenz at Uptown Dental every 6 months for the whole family.