Dental care for your infant

July 24, 2015

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There's nothing sweeter to hear than the sound of a baby's laugh. Keeping infants healthy and happy is both an important and joyful responsibility for parents, so it's crucial to have all the proper information to make that happen. Remember, just because a child's smile isn't filled with pearly white teeth yet doesn't mean oral health can wait. Here are some dental care tips for your baby's mouth:

"Clean your baby's mouth at least twice a day."

Clean the gums
Oral care is vital for your baby's healthy development, even if he or she has not grown any teeth yet. Be sure to clean your baby's mouth at least twice a day. You can safely do this by laying the baby on your lap, with his or her feet facing away from your body. This way, you can see directly into your child's mouth. Then, simply rub a damp wash rag over both the top and bottom gum lines, or you can complete this process with a terrycloth finger cot.1 This will help prevent the growth of bacteria.

Get enough fluoride
Even if your baby doesn't have teeth, getting enough fluoride is still important for his or her oral health. Consuming an adequate amount will ensure the enamel, the tooth's protective layer, is strong as the teeth are forming. Because you may not be using toothpaste on your infant at this point, your municipal water supply will be the main source of fluoride for your baby - many water districts already include the proper amount for healthy tooth development. Call your local water district to see if there is any or enough fluoride in your tap water. If there's' not, or you use bottled water to cook and drink, you may need to provide your infant with a fluoride supplement.

Many formulas already have fluoride in them.
Many formulas already have fluoride in them.

It's important you find out how much fluoride your baby is getting from the water before you start adding supplements. Many infant formulas also contain low levels of fluoride, and too much of it can affect the baby's dental development. From birth through age 8, your child's teeth will be continuously forming. An excess of fluoride during these crucial oral development stages may lead to fluorosis. Fluorosis describes the situation in which faint white spots appear on the tooth's surface.2 While these marks are typically not noticeable to anyone but dental hygienists, infants who consume multiple sources of fluoride may develop more distinct spots that can affect their smiles' appearances later in life.

Ditch the sugar
Preventative cares goes beyond daily oral cleanings for your infant - there are habits that you should avoid, too. Regulating what foods your kids consume will help combat potential dental health issues. Milk, formula and fruit juices all contain sugar, and they can lead to cavities known as baby bottle tooth decay.3 The sugar-filled liquids pool around your child's teeth as he or she sleeps, which eats away at the tooth enamel. Though it's not a major concern until you start seeing the first budding teeth in your child's mouth, practicing healthy habits from day one is a great way to keep your child on the right dental track.

Make sure you don't send your baby to sleep with sugary drinks. If this is a tough habit to break, consider putting your child down for bed with a baby bottle of water. This way, your baby will still have the sensation of holding a bottle without the poor oral hygiene effects of consuming sugar at nighttime. Additionally, avoiding dipping your infant's pacifiers in sweet things like honey or sugar. This can also contribute to tooth decay.

The No. 1 goal for parents is to keep their babies happy and healthy. Proper oral care will keep your infant's smile looking great - teeth or no teeth!

1. "Your Infant's Mouth," Colgate, Jan. 12, 2011. http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-at-Any-Age/Infants-and-Children/Infant-Care/article/Your-Infants-Mouth.cvsp

2. "Overview: Infant Formula and Fluorosis," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety/infant_formula.htm

3. "How Do I Care for My Infant's Teeth?" Colgate. http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-at-Any-Age/Infants-and-Children/Infant-Care/article/How-Do-I-Care-for-My-Infants-Teeth.cvsp

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