Even though they will eventually be replaced by adult teeth, baby teeth are incredibly important for a child’s development. From the first meal of breast milk to their pacifier or teething ring, babies put a lot of things in their mouths! That’s why you should be paying attention to their oral hygiene from the very beginning.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Get Ahead with Gums
Just because you can’t see the teeth, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. A baby’s teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy, so at birth, they already have 20 teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.
Even before your baby starts teething, therefore, it is important to practice good oral hygiene. Begin by running a warm, damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria. Another technique that can be used is “finger brushing”, getting your child used to the feeling of something tickling their gums in preparation for when they begin teething.
Take Care of Tiny Teeth
A child’s first tooth should appear between the ages of 6 and 12 months and is immediately at risk of tooth decay if not taken care of properly. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), it is the most common chronic disease in children in the U.S., reportedly affecting 42% of kids aged 2 to 11. This is an incredibly high figure when you consider that it is almost entirely preventable!
The best pediatric dentists will recommend the first visit to the dentist before twelve months, when they may only have a couple of teeth actually showing. Dentists are then able to detect early tooth decay, provide parents with information on proper oral development, and determine fluoride needs. A scientific paper in the Pediatric Dentistry journal revealed that children who wait to visit the dentist until they are 2 or 3 are more likely to require restorative and emergency visits.
The Future is Sugar-Free
If you’ve established a routine and taught the techniques early on, you’ve already done the best thing you can for your child’s long-term oral health. Children who reach the age of 9 without having tooth decay have a 90% chance of never needing a filling in their lifetime! However, whatever their age, it’s always important to keep on top of your child’s oral health. For example, a study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene revealed that many teenagers who go to bed after their parents, neglect to brush their teeth. This makes them 4 times more likely to require fillings!
You can help your child to maintain their oral health by setting bedtimes and promoting a healthy diet. Sugar is one of the main causes of tooth decay, so restrict juice to breakfast times, don’t keep sugary drinks or foods in the house, and be sure to provide three healthy meals a day to prevent snacking.
If you have any concerns about your child’s oral health, be sure to visit your dentist as soon as possible, who will be able to recommend the best cause of action.