Dental Care For Your Baby

Before Your Baby Arrives

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling during pregnancy.  Research has shown evidence that periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight.  Talk to your physician or dentist about ways you can prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy.

Additionally, mothers with poor oral health may be at greater risk of passing the bacteria which causes cavities to their young children.  Mother's should follow these simple steps to decrease the risk of spreading cavity-causing bacteria:

  • Visit your dentist regularly
  • Brush and floss on a daily basis to reduce bacterial plaque
  • Proper diet, with the reduction of beverages and foods high in sugar & starch
  • Use a fluoridated toothpaste recommended by the ADA and reinse every night with an alcohol-free, over-the-counter mouth rinse with .05% sodium fluoride in order to reduce plaque levels.
  • Don't share utensils, cups or food which can cause the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to your children.
  • Use of xylitol chewing gum (4 pieces per day by the mother) can decrease a child's caries rate

Caring for Gums

Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your son or daughter will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one’s mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.

Baby’s First Tooth

When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.

At this stage, toothpaste isn’t necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn’t react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don’t give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months and try the toothbrush again. During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.

Brushing with Toothpaste

When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child’s brush. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice). From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing, which should not be swallowed at any age.

Avoiding Cavities

Don’t give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries)

One serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay.  This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant's teeth to liquids that contain sugar.  Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.

Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay.  Sweet liquid pools around th child's teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel.  If you must give your little one a bottle for comfort at bedtime, it should contain water ONLY!!  If your child won't fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle's contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.

First Visit to the Dentist

It’s recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems. We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one's teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.

Setting a Good Example

As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.) Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!

Thumb Sucking

Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck.  It may make them feel secure and happy, or provide a sense of security at difficult periods.  Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.

Thum sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment.  How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result.  Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.

Our dentists will carefully watch the way your child's teeth erupt and jaws develop, keeping the sucking habit in mind at all times.  Although some experts recommend addressing sucking habits before age 3, the American Academy of Pediatrics says treatment is usually limited to children who continue thumb sucking after the age of 5.

Help Break the Habit

Talk to your child about thumb sucking.  You’re more likely to be successful in stopping the habit if your child wants to stop and helps choose the method involved.

Sometimes paying no attention to thumb sucking is enough to stop the behavior – especially if your child uses thumb sucking to get attention.  If ignoring it isn’t effective, try one of these techniques:

  • Use positive reinforcement-Praise your child or provide small rewards – such as an extra bedtime story or a trip to the park – when he or she isn’t thumb sucking.  Set attainable goals, such as no thumb sucking an hour before bed.  Place stickers on a calendar to record the days when your child successfully avoids thumb sucking.
  • Identify triggers – If your child sucks his or her thumb in response to stress, identify the real issue and provide comfort in other ways – such as with a hug or reassuring words.  You might also give your child a pillow or stuffed animal to squeeze.
  • Reward jar – Set a timer for one hour and tell your little one that if they can keep their fingers or thumbs out of their mouths until the timer goes off, they will earn a penny, nickel or however much you can contribute in their reward jar.  If during that hour they begin to suck their fingers or thumbs, one of the rewards in the jar will be taken away.  Once the jar is full, take them to a dollar store or clearance aisle of your favorite store to pick out their own prize with the money they earned.
  • Offer gentle reminders – If your child sucks his or her thumb without thought – rather than as a way to get attention – gently remind him or her to stop.  Don’t ever scold, criticize or ridicule your child.

Our office can encourage your little one to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue.

If these approaches don’t work, remind the child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night.  Our office may recommend the use of a mouth appliance.