Tooth care is important for all ages, but infant and toddler tooth care is vital for the lifelong health of their teeth. The baby teeth, or primary teeth are important for a variety of reasons; good oral health comes into play when a child is learning the proper way to speak, and proper eating habits.
Baby teeth also are the body’s place holders for their adult teeth. Healthy baby teeth leads to properly spaced and healthy adult teeth.
Babies tend to get their first tooth as early as 6 months, or as late as 9 months of age. By the time they are 3, they will have all 20 of their baby teeth. Good oral hygiene starts from well before the first tooth.
Infants that are breast-fed or bottle fed should start an oral care routine from the age of 3 months. You can use your finger and warm water to clean the oral cavity, or you can purchase a rubberized baby toothbrush that is dimpled at the ends to rub the milk from the gums. Not only does this keep the mouth free from germs, but it also prepares the child for regular tooth brushing as they grow older.
Adults may use mouthwash, but under no circumstances should you give mouthwash to infants or toddlers under the age of 3. Not only are the contents harmful to their growing gums, but they may swallow the substance instead of spitting all of it out.
Once your child has their first tooth, or first few teeth, it is time to start brushing to keep them free from cavities. Purchase toothpaste that is formulated for the age of your child, and a matching toothbrush that is also age appropriate. If your child is still too small to hold the toothbrush, angle the bristles towards their gums and brush gently, covering the oral cavity. Rinse with warm water, and make sure that all the paste is spit out, not swallowed.
As your child ages, you will need to teach them proper brushing habits that can last a lifetime. Always supervise your toddler when they care for their teeth, at least until they are 6 years old. Older toddlers like flavored toothpaste, but make sure whichever you choose is infused with fluoride. Flossing is best left to the adults, but you should explain how and why you are flossing their teeth so they can properly mimic your actions when they are old enough.
Aside from taking care of your children’s teeth at home, regular visits to the dentist will play a key part in their oral health. Try visiting a pediatric dentist that services only children. In most cases, these offices are very child friendly which will put their little patients at ease during their first and subsequent visits. Before you go to their first visit, talk to them about how important it is to visit the dentist and let them know what they can expect during their visit to avoid unneeded fear.
Following these few oral health tips for infants and toddlers will go a long way in ensuring they have a healthy set of teeth as adults.
Zane Schwarzlose is a writer at the Lakeway Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry. Zane hopes his kids will have good chompers.