There is this belief among some folks that dental care for babies is not an important issue since those baby teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth. They mistakenly believe that since baby teeth fall out, the focus should be on the youngsters permanent teeth.
While it is true that primary teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth, they should still be looked after in the same way. In addition, one of the most important reasons to teach proper dental care to children is so that the habits they learn early will stick with them throughout the rest of their lives. If good dental habits are not in place by the time permanent teeth begin appearing, which is around six years of age, developing good habits will be more difficult later on.
Most babies start getting teeth when they are around six months old. The bottom row central incisors typically are the first to appear, followed by the top row central incisors. Altogether, there are twenty primary teeth and they usually erupt according to a schedule that most infants follow. The last primary teeth to erupt are the second molars and they will appear between the ages of two and three.
If not properly cared for, an infant’s teeth can begin to decay from the moment they first erupt. Infant dental decay is painful and should be avoided. Of course, at only six months old, an infant does not have the physical or mental skills needed to brush his teeth. At this stage of life, it is up to the parents or primary caregiver to clean a baby’s teeth using a toothbrush designed for an infant or a very soft washcloth. Just gently, brush or rub the tooth or teeth once a day, before bed.
Pediatric dentists advise that the first dental visit take place when the baby turns one. That first visit is important and the dentist will want to ensure your baby is getting fluoride from his drinking water. If not, the dentist can write a prescription for fluoride, which will help protect the child’s developing teeth from dental decay. If a baby’s teeth are showing signs of spotting or staining and the baby has not yet turned one, it’s a good idea to visit the dentist sooner.
To keep decay under control, do not give infants sugary drinks, especially at night from a bottle. During the day, do not fill a baby bottle with sweet drinks to use as a pacifier. Keep in mind that most milk, formula, and even fruit drinks contain sugar. Doing any of the above can cause baby bottle tooth decay. It is not a good idea to coat a pacifier with sugar either as that can also lead to decay.
At age two, your little one can begin daily brushing using a small dab of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to supervise the tooth brushing.
At meal and snack time, avoid sugary drinks, foods and snacks. Teaching your child early on to eat vegetables and healthy snacks will limit tooth decay and is an excellent way to instill good eating habits.