There are few things more precious than your child’s smile
By practicing good preventive dental care, you can keep that beautiful smile healthy, right from the start.
Most babies get their first tooth at around six months and will have all 20 primary teeth by the age of three. Then, at about six years old, their permanent teeth begin to arrive. By developing strong dental care habits early, you set the stage for a lifetime of good dental health.
Here are 15 ways to keep that little smile bright
- Start cleaning baby’s mouth even before that first tooth appears. After a feeding, wipe their gums to remove plaque and prevent decay. This not only removes plaque, but gets them familiar with the sensation of having her mouth cleaned.
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, guarding against baby tooth decay, or “caries,” is serious business. Tooth decay develops when the teeth and gums are exposed to drinks and foods for long periods. The best preventive strategy is to limit prolonged feedings and clean little mouths in between meals.
- For this reason, experts warn against putting babies to bed with a bottle of formula or milk—one of the primary causes of “baby bottle caries” or “bottlemouth syndrome”.
- Start teaching your child to drink from a sippy cup at around one year. Drinking from a cup limits the liquids that collect around the teeth. (Similarly, always give juice—which is high in sugar—in a cup instead of a bottle.) Our training cup can make the transition easier.
- Avoid allowing your child to carry and sip from a bottle all day. Reserve the bottle for mealtime, and you’ll limit the exposure to baby’s teeth.
- Once baby’s teeth start erupting, brush them twice a day with a gentle, soft-bristled toothbrush. Most dentists recommend using a little water—not toothpaste—until kids reach age two. If baby’s having a tough time with teething, see Your Teething Baby: Advice and Remedies.
- Once your child has two touching teeth, ask your dentist if you should begin flossing.
- Make brushing an enjoyable part of your child’s daily routine. Turn it into a game. Sing songs. Brush your teeth as a family.
- Schedule baby’s first dental visit as soon as his first tooth arrives, and definitely before his first birthday. Your dentist will check for decay, evaluate your child’s dental development, and offer advice specific to your child.
- According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, a nutritious, balanced diet lays the groundwork for healthy tooth and gum development. Need tips for making nutritious baby food? Read Making Homemade Baby Food: It’s Healthy, Tasty, and Easier Than You Think.
- Once your child is about two, encourage them to brush their teeth independently. But to make sure teeth are really clean, brush them again yourself. (Most kids don’t have the manual dexterity to brush alone until they’re five or six.)
- What about thumb sucking? Most kids stop on their own by about age two, and that’s fine. But when kids are still sucking on their fingers after age four, it can lead to orthodontic problems. One solution: dentist-invented appliances like our Thumb Guard and Finger Guard.
- Toothbrushes can be breeding grounds for germs and bacteria, so replace yours often (many dentists recommend every three months). In between, you can sterilize the family’s brushes with a portable toothbrush sanitizer.
- Ask your pediatrician or dentist about fluoride. Fluoride, a natural chemical, builds strong teeth, but too much can lead to fluorosis (discolored enamel). Plus, it’s not something kids should consume. Many dentists suggest starting fluoridated toothpaste at age two, when kids can spit instead of swallow under careful supervision, of course.
- Encourage your child to have a healthy, positive attitude about their teeth, whether gaining them, losing them, or brushing them.
When it comes to dental health, an ounce of prevention can make all the difference. By starting good dental habits early, you’ll give your child a gift that will last through his or her lifetime.
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