Both as a dentist and as a mother, I hear people say, “We just have bad teeth. Our whole family does.” My name is Dr. Liz, the Baby Dentist, and I have good news for you!
The first piece of good news is that not everyone has to get cavities. Even if your family members have had bad teeth in the past, you can change that for your children. It’s likely that your baby was born with healthy teeth, most babies are. As soon as those first teeth come in, it’s time to start taking good care of them. Unhealthy teeth come from not taking good care of teeth as soon as they first come in, and from bad hygiene habits or diet at home.
The next bit of good news is that cavities are caused by germs (bacteria). Why is that good news? Because it means they are almost 100% preventable. Tooth decay is caused by germs in the mouth that we can clean off when we brush in the morning and again at night. So, there you have it; no more mystery.
By making some simple changes in your home habits, your baby can grow up to have healthy, beautiful teeth!
* Begin brushing twice a day with a toothbrush and a small smear of fluoridated toothpaste as soon as the first tooth erupts.
* Daily flossing starts when baby’s teeth are touching. Pre-threaded flossers are great for this.
* Do not share spoons, forks, or cups. This goes back to where cavities come from. When you share utensils of any kind, you are passing germs from your mouth to your baby’s.
* Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle or cup with milk, juice or any other beverages, only water is OK.
*Only put water in a sippy cup. Milk or a little bit of juice is ok at mealtimes, but if your child carries a sippy cup around outside of mealtime, make sure it only contains water.
* Don’t dip pacifiers in honey or sugar or clean them with your mouth.
* Your child should start seeing a dentist when the first tooth comes in or by age 1.
Remember that as your child is growing and learning, important tasks like brushing and flossing need to be done by you or another adult in the house until about the age of 8.
Of course, we also want to see you at the dentist office early and often and I have more good news on how this will only help you and your family. If you make these little changes at home, and see the dentist regularly when things in your child’s mouth are good, your child may grow up loving to brush their teeth and loving to come to the dentist. Wouldn’t that be great? Of course, prevention is much less expensive than restorative care which
can make a big difference for your family.
As a mom and a dentist, I could tell you any number of stories about the young children that I see with cavities and how much they hurt, but not today. Today is all about good news. If you get into healthy habits at home, you can keep your dental visits short and sweet and your child’s smile healthy and beautiful.
Tips on Flossing
1. You don’t need to begin flossing until your child’s teeth are touching.
2. Pre-threaded flossers are your friend. Try something like these http://www.oralb.com/products/toystoryflosser/
3. Make it part of the bedtime routine. While sitting, let your child rest their head in your lap while you use a pre-threaded flosser.
Remember that flossing is just one part of overall good oral habits including: twice daily brushing, limiting juice to 4oz per day, putting only water in the sippy cup, not sharing utensils or cleaning pacifiers with your own mouth, and getting your little one to the dentist by age 1.
For more info go to www.HealthyTeethHappyBabies.com and read the entire Mommy DDS article on infant dental care.
Dr. Elizabeth Shick is a Pediatric Dentist at Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor for the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine.