First of all, congratulations! If you're reading this blog, that probably means you have a new baby in your life. Whether it's your own child, a darling niece or nephew, or a grandchild, you're headed in the right direction to take care of this little one's well-being.
Infant dental care can be a bit puzzling. How do you care for teeth that aren't even there yet? This guide will walk you through all the necessary steps for ensuring the baby in your life has a healthy smile:
1. Schedule an oral health risk assessment
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advised parents to schedule an appointment with the child's primary physician to determine the baby's risk of developing oral maladies. During this visit, the doctor will evaluate the child's chances of incurring cavities, looking at both the hard and soft tissues, and create a fluoride plan to ascertain how much of this mineral the baby should be exposed to. According to the AAPD, babies should undergo this evaluation no later than 6 months of age, and moms and dads should view this as an opportunity to ask questions and gain more knowledge on infant dental care.
2. Prepare for teething
While the little one in your life wasn't born with a full set of pearly whites, the 20 primary teeth typically grow in by age 3. Baby tooth eruption begins during infancy, usually anywhere between 2 and 12 months of age. As such, teething is a main component of infant oral care, and it's important to know this ins and outs of this process.
According to Colgate, while some infants don't show any symptoms, teething may prompt fussiness, drooling and even a reluctance to eat. Part of this stems from the slight pain babies feel while their first teeth grow in. To quell this discomfort, take a clean finger, infant gum massager or wet cloth and apply gentle pressure on the gums. Cold teething rings or other objects that are safe for the child to chew on can provide similar relief.
3. Clean the baby's teeth and gums
Before teething even takes place, it's important to clean the baby's mouth to prepare for the eruption of those pearly whites. The American Dental Association advised that oral care should begin within the first few days after birth, but don't turn to the toothbrush just yet. Similar to methods for quelling teething discomfort, parents and caregivers can use a wet cloth to gently rub the gums and remove any food debris and bacteria.
Once the first tooth shows through, then you can begin using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny smear of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, to brush the teeth twice each day. You can begin flossing when the child has two touching teeth, which will help remove any interdental bacteria.
4. Consider a mouth-healthy diet
The AAPD explained that breastfeeding delivers superior nutrition to formula, boosting the baby's developmental and psychological health while presenting no risk associated with cavities. However, providing human breast milk isn't always possible. Whether the baby's staying at Grandma's house for the night or there's another reason preventing the use of breast milk, bottle feeding provides an effective option. That being said, it's important to know that liquids containing sugar, like formula or juice, can raise the baby's risks for dental caries, especially when the baby is fed between meals. If you take this route, just be sure to thoroughly clean the child's gums or teeth.
5. Visit the dentist
To maintain a successful family dental plan, schedule an appointment for your child when you see that first tooth and no later than the baby's first birthday, per the AAPD's recommendations. Much like with the first dental health evaluation, use this opportunity not just to assess the status of your baby's smile but to ask questions about how you can improve at-home care. According to Colgate, during the initial appointment, the dentist should go over the impact of oral habits like thumb-sucking, how to use fluoride properly, what constitutes as a mouth-healthy diet, dental milestones and oral trauma prevention. Of course, you can also bring up any other questions you have that aren't covered in the consultation.
Whether you're a mom, uncle or grandpa, you likely want nothing more than to see the baby in your life healthy and with a happy smile. Be sure to incorporate these infant oral care tips in the child's lifestyle to ensure each tooth grows in strong.