A child’s primary teeth, which people sometimes call baby teeth, are just as important as their permanent teeth. Baby teeth help a child chew and speak. They are placeholders for the future permanent teeth.
If a child loses a baby tooth to decay, this can disrupt the space in the mouth and make it difficult for the adult tooth to develop correctly.
With this in mind, it is best to introduce good dental care for children during infancy. The following practices will help keep a child’s teeth and gums healthy:
- Wipe a baby’s gums with a warm, wet washcloth every day, even before they have any teeth. Doing this removes sugars from the gums and can help a baby become familiar with the feeling of cleaning their teeth.
- Babies and toddlers should not go to bed with bottles or sippy cups. Milk and juice contain sugars that can cause tooth decay if they remain on the teeth for extended periods.
- As a baby approaches 1 year of age, start getting them used to a sippy cup. Aim to stop using bottles by their first birthday.
- Allow toddlers to sip water from sippy cups between meals, but save juice or milk for meal times only.
- Once a baby has teeth, brush them twice a day with a soft baby toothbrush. Use a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste, no bigger than a grain of rice. Children who are 3 to 6 years of age may use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- Parents or caregivers should brush the child’s teeth for them until they can clean all of their teeth thoroughly without help. Monitor them to make sure that they spit out the toothpaste.
- Keep the toothpaste out of children’s reach when it is not in use.
- The ADA recommend that children see a dentist within 6 months of their first tooth appearing or at 1 year of age, whichever comes first.
- Parents and caregivers should not share eating utensils with a child or clean pacifiers by putting them in their mouth. Both of these actions can pass the adult’s cavity-causing bacteria to the child.
Practicing good dental care from infancy to adulthood can help a person keep their teeth and gums healthy. Brushing and flossing daily, not smoking, eating a healthful diet, and having regular dental checkups can help people avoid cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues. It may also benefit their overall health.