Baby Dental Care
Baby teeth (also called deciduous or primary teeth) don't just give your baby an adorable grin, they serve an important purpose: they help your baby learn to chew and speak properly, encourage proper jaw growth, and act as "space savers" for adult, permanent teeth. To ensure your baby develops a healthy smile, it's important to take care of baby teeth.
You can begin good dental care for your baby before he or she is even born by eating a healthy diet and taking care of yourself during your pregnancy. Tooth buds begin forming under your baby's gums between the third and sixth month of gestation so be sure you eat a balanced diet; take your prenatal vitamins; and get enough vitamin A, C, and D; as well as protein, calcium and phosphorous.
A baby's first tooth usually erupts around 6 or 7 months of age (although this range can vary widely), but you can begin good dental care before your baby ever gives you that first toothy grin. "Baby bottle tooth decay" results when residual juice or milk pools around teeth and gums for long periods of time, such as during sleep. To prevent this, never allow your baby to fall asleep with a bottle of milk, juice, or any other sugary liquid and do not allow a toddler to carry a bottle around all day.
Before any teeth erupt, gently wipe your baby's gums twice a day using a clean, wet piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. And as soon as the first tooth breaks through, begin brushing it daily using a soft toothbrush made especially for little mouths. Toothpaste isn't recommended until your child is a little older (2 to 3 years old); and once you begin to use toothpaste, use only a small amount - about the size of a match head - and teach your child not to swallow it. Once two teeth come in next to each other, begin flossing every day.
You should take your child to a pediatric dentist (a dentist that specializes in children's dentistry) around his or her first birthday, or about six months after the first tooth erupts, and twice a year thereafter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 67.3 percent of the U.S. population on public water supplies has access to fluoridated water. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps strengthen the tooth's enamel (outer coating) and recent studies show that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay in permanent teeth by approximately 18 to 40 percent. If your area does not have fluoridated water, ask your child's pediatrician or dentist about fluoride supplements.
Beginning good dental care early will ensure your child develops a mouth full of healthy teeth and an adorable smile.