9 Steps to Lifelong Dental Health
Did you know that there are steps you can take to lay the foundation for a lifetime of good dental health for your child long before any teeth appear? The suggestions below, if followed, will increase the likelihood that your child will develop excellent habits (and fewer cavities).
1. Avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Never put your baby to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water. Breast milk, formula, juice and other liquids bathe the mouth with sugar and acid, setting the stage for cavities and dental enamel erosion.
2. Start Cleaning Baby’s Mouth Now
No need to wait for teeth to erupt! Gently wipe baby’s gums after each feeding gums with a wet gauze pad. You can use a washcloth, but gauze pads are tossed away with each use, avoiding the temptation to use a wet washcloth that can harbor bacteria with repeated use.
3. Childproof for Dental Safety
Be sure to childproof your home early, when baby is first crawling, to prevent accidents, some of which can result in trauma to baby’s face and/or teeth.
4. Use Care When Brushing Baby Teeth
Starting with baby’s first tooth, brush after each feeding with a baby-sized, soft toothbrush. Toothpaste is optional at this age so long as you are thorough. If you decide to use toothpaste, know that baby will swallow it, so avoid using fluoridated toothpaste until we give you the OK.
5. First Dental Visit
You should take your baby to see the dentist around his first birthday. This establishes your child’s “dental comfort,” and gives us, your NYC pediatric dentist, the opportunity to check for dental disease, alignment issues, or developmental problems, and to answer any questions that you have.
6. Time for Toddler Tooth Care Training
After your child’s third birthday, you can begin to teach proper brushing technique with the use of a pea-sized drop of fluoridated toothpaste. Allow your toddler to “brush” his teeth, then you follow-up after them, modeling the correct way to brush. When your child enters first grade, she is likely old enough to manage holding the brush correctly.
7. When to Introduce Flossing
You should floss your child’s teeth daily as soon as there are two teeth that touch one another. By the time your child is about 6 ½ years old, you can allow him to floss, followed by a quick floss overview by you to be sure you don’t miss any food left between the teeth. Kids aren’t really old enough to brush and floss on their own until the age of 10 or so.
8. Say Yes to Sealants
Sealants help keep cavities from developing in the tiny crevices of your child’s teeth, and should be applied early. If we see your little one every six months, we can let you know when we think it’s appropriate to apply sealants.
9. Say No to Sugar
We’re genetically programmed to like sweets but the more sugars your child eats or drinks, the longer it takes the saliva to neutralize the acids created by those sugars. This includes 100% fruit juice, by the way.