Proper Dental Care Begins with Baby Teeth
Overall, Americans are taking better care of their teeth. But the news from a government survey wasn’t as good for the nation’s littlest mouths. The number of cavities in the baby teeth of children ages 2 to 5 increased by nearly 5 percent between 1988 and 2004.1
Healthy teeth are important to your child’s growth and development.2 They help your child eat right, talk properly, and feel good about his/her smile.3 Baby teeth hold space for permanent teeth.4 Baby teeth also assist in the development of the bones in the face and jaws. Keeping baby teeth healthy also can save children from the pain of a cavity—and from stress caused by the dental visit it may require.4,5
Care Should Start Before Teeth Develop
Most babies start to develop their primary teeth between age 6 months and one year.6 But there are steps you can take to protect your child’s oral health from birth:
Don’t put your little one to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, sweetened water, or soft drinks.7
Wipe your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth or soft infant toothbrush after meals.7,3
Report any spots and stains on developing teeth to your child’s doctor or dentist.4
Also, breast-feeding has been found to help future teeth grow in straight.2
Maintain a Healthy Mouth Through Childhood
Most of your child’s teeth will come in by age 2.4 Follow these tips to keep them intact until they fall out naturally, which usually begins around age 6:8
Visit the pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth appearance and no later than the first birthday.6 Take him/her back as often as the dentist recommends.9
Feed your child a healthy diet. Think fruits and veggies instead of sugary cookies and candy.4
Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. You can clean and massage toothless areas. When all of the baby teeth are have come in, you can begin flossing. This usually happens by age 2 or 2-1/2.10 Most children need help brushing until 7 or 8 years of age.4 Children should brush twice a day with special attention to the gumline.
Ask the dentist if cavity-fighting sealants are right for your child. They can be applied to baby teeth or permanent teeth. Some insurance plans will cover them.11
1 "Trends in Oral Health Status: United States, 1988–1994 and 1999–2004." B.A. Dye et al. Vital and Health Statistics. April 2007, series 11, no. 248. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17633507
2 "How to Care for Your Baby’s Teeth." American Academy of Family Physicians, October 2007. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/children/parents/kidshealthy/healthy-choice/834.printerview.html Accessed 2010.
3 “Dental Care for Your Baby." American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 2008. http://www.aapd.org/publications/brochures/babycare.asp Accessed 2010.
4 "A Healthy Mouth for Your Baby." National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, April 2006. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/ToothDecay/AHealthyMouthforYourBaby.htm Accessed 2010.
5 "Approaches Taken to the Treatment of Young Children with Carious Primary Teeth: A National Cross-Sectional Survey of General Dental Practitioners and Paediatric Specialists in England." M. Tickle et al. British Dental Journal. June 15, 2007, vol. 203, no. E4, pp. 1–6. http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v203/n2/abs/bdj.2007.570.html Accessed 2010.
6 “Oral Health Topics: Baby Teeth.” American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/3084.aspx?currentTab=1 Accessed 2010.
7 MedlinePlus: Infant Dental Care.” U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, August 1, 2007. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/9091.htm Accessed 2010.
8 "MedlinePlus: Developmental Milestones Record." U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, January 22, 2007. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002002.htm Accessed 2010.
9 "Regular Dental Visits." American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 2008. http://www.aapd.org/publications/brochures/regdent.asp Accessed 2010.
10 "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Tooth Decay)" American Dental Association http://www.ada.org/3034.aspx Accessed 2010.
11 "Seal Out Tooth Decay: A Booklet for Parents." National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, April 2006. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/ToothDecay/SealOutToothDecay.htm Accessed 2010.