Many people don’t understand how important baby teeth are! These primary teeth are necessary for children to chew and speak properly. These teeth also hold the space for the permanent teeth to come in. If a primary tooth is lost too early, the permanent tooth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for the other permanent teeth to erupt into the mouth.
Remember that cavities are contagious! The bacteria (usually Streptococcus mutans) are transmitted from one person to another and from one tooth to another. If a primary tooth has an untreated cavity or infection, it is able to spread to the adjacent teeth and cause unnecessary damage.
Brushing Up on Oral Health: Never Too Early to Start
For parents who wish to establish good dental health for their infants, the following general guidelines may be of help:
- Fluoride and Your Child: Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in many foods, and it also is added to the drinking water in some cities and towns. It can benefit dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks that can cause tooth decay. It also reduces the ability of plaque bacteria to produce acid. Check with your local water utility agency to find out if your water has fluoride in it. If it doesn’t, ask your doctor if you should get a prescription for fluoride drops or chewable tablets for your child.
- Check and Clean Your Baby’s Teeth: Healthy teeth should be all one color. If you see spots or stains on the teeth, take your baby to your dentist. As soon as your child has a tooth begin to use a smear (size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste. Clean the teeth at least twice a day. It’s best to clean them right after breakfast and before bedtime. Once your child turns 3 you can begin to use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. When your child is able, teach him to spit out the excess toothpaste, but don’t rinse with water. As your child gets older let her use her own toothbrush. It is best if you put the toothpaste on the toothbrush until your child is about age 6. Until children are 7 or 8 years old, you will need to help them brush. Try brushing their teeth first and then letting them finish.
- Feed Your Baby Healthy Food: Choose drinks and foods that do not have a lot of sugar in them. Give your child fruits and vegetables instead of candy and cookies. Be careful with dried fruits, such as raisins, since they easily stick to the grooves of the teeth and can cause cavities if not thoroughly brushed off the teeth.
- Prevent Tooth Decay: Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle at night or at naptime. (If you do put your baby to bed with a bottle, fill it only with water). Milk, formula, juices and other sweet drinks, such as soda, all have sugar in them. Sucking on a bottle filled with liquids that have sugar in them can cause tooth decay. During the day, do not give your baby a bottle filled with sweet drinks to use like a pacifier. If your baby uses a pacifier, do not dip it in anything sweet like sugar or honey. Near his first birthday, you should teach your child to drink from a cup instead of a bottle.