Regular dental visits are essential for keeping your child's dental development on track. These semi-annual cleanings and checkups (beginning around their first birthday) can help your child avoid tooth decay and give you a heads-up on any developing bite problems.
But dental visits are only half of your child's oral care. What you do—or don't do—at home can also make the difference in keeping their teeth and gums healthy throughout childhood.
Here then are 4 do's and don'ts that will help your child's mouth stay healthy.
Do practice daily hygiene. It's never too early to start a hygiene habit with your child—even before they have teeth. With infants, simply wipe their gums after feeding with a clean, damp cloth. As teeth come in, switch to a smear of toothpaste and brush them daily. As they get older you can increase the toothpaste amount to a pea-sized portion and add flossing to your hygiene routine.
Don't kiss on the lips. Infants, that is: You could transfer your own oral bacteria to them during mouth-to-mouth contact that their immature immune system won't be able to control. As a result, they may encounter bacteria that increases their risk of tooth decay. Instead, kiss your baby on their forehead. For the same reason, don't share eating utensils with them or engage in similar mouth-to-mouth contact.
Do keep them on a dental-healthy diet. Your first step here is to control their sugar intake—this food favorite of bacteria fuels their growth, which in turn increases the risk of decay. So, keep sugary snacks to a minimum, optimally restricted to mealtimes. And make sure their foods are rich in calcium, phosphorous and other nutrients that help build strong, healthy teeth.
Don't put them to bed with a bottle. While a nighttime bottle may help a baby go to sleep faster, the sugar in juices and even formula stay in the mouth longer during sleep hours and increase bacterial growth. The best practice is to avoid a nighttime bottle altogether. If you do, though, fill it with water rather than sugary liquids.
These and other tooth-friendly practices will help your child avoid future teeth and gum problems. Coupled with their dental visits, you'll be helping them start a lifetime of optimum dental health.
If you would like more information on best practices for your child's optimum dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”