According to the American Dental Association (ADA), it is never too early to establish good oral hygiene habits. This will ensure healthy teeth and gums for your child.
Here are some tips for parents from the ADA.
Clean Gums for Clean Teeth
After each feeding, wipe your baby's gums with a clean gauze pad. At birth, your baby already has 20 primary teeth, some of which are almost completely formed in the jaw. Wiping the gums will remove the plaque and bacteria that can harm teeth as they erupt from the gums. Begin brushing with a soft toothbrush when the first tooth erupts.
Drinks for Bedtime and Nap Time
Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice, or sweetened liquids. This can lead to tooth decay. Instead, fill a bottle with cool water for your baby.
The same is true walking around with a bottle or sippy cup containing milk, formula, fruit juice, or sweetened liquids.
First Dental Visit
It is recommended that your child has a dental visit 6 months after the first tooth arrives or by their first birthday. Be sure to make a call to the dentist after the first tooth erupts. The dentist will check for decay and other possible problems and can show you how to properly clean your child's teeth.
Ensure that your child eats a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the 4 major food groups:
- Grain products
- Fruits and vegetables
- Protein foods, such as lean meat and beans
- Dairy from low fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt
Provide nutritious snacks, such as cheese, raw vegetables and fruit, or low fat or fat-free plain yogurt. Limit the number of starchy or sugary snacks your child eats. After a snack that contains sugars or starches, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.
Fluoride is a naturally occuring mineral that protects teeth from tooth decay. It is available in toothpastes, mouth rinses, gels, applied at the dental office, and tables prescribed by dentists. In many communities, fluoride is also found in drinking water.
Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child is getting the right amount of fluoride.
Make sure that your child brushes at least twice a day. Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste that has the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance once your child is aged 2 years. Set a good example by brushing your own teeth at least twice a day.
Teach your child to clean between the teeth daily with floss. A parent should begin using floss on a child's teeth as soon as any two teeth touch.
Regular Dental Visits
Take your child to the dentist regularly. Children should know that the dentist is a friendly doctor who will help them take care of their teeth. Be positive and try to make dental visits an enjoyable experience for your child.
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association
Canadian Dental Association
Dental Hygiene Canada
Baby bottle tooth decay. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/baby-bottle-tooth-decay. Accessed August 8, 2017.
Community water fluoridation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/faqs. Updated June 17, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Douglass JM, Douglass AB, Silk HJ. A practical guide to infant oral health. Am Fam Physician 2004;70(11):2113-2120.
Fluoride for prevention of dental caries. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T360983/Fluoride-for-prevention-of-dental-caries. Updated November 21, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.
Healthy habits. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/healthy-habits. Accessed August 8, 2017.
Nutrition. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/nutrition. Accessed November 11, 2013.
Last reviewed August 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 8/14/2015