Milk teeth usually start appearing around the age of 6 months, however, oral hygiene should start before that. Milk teeth may not seem important since they are replaced around the age of 6, but they act as placeholders for permanent teeth. Caring for your child’s gums prevents development of gingivitis, inflammation of the gums, which can affect the spacing between the teeth. Also, a healthy set of milk teeth is essential for the proper development of speech, so it is important that you start brushing your little one’s teeth on time.
Developing good foundations for oral care starts with cleaning the gums by using a soft damp cloth or a piece of gauze. Wipe your baby’s gums gently after feedings and before bed. Once the teething process starts and the first milk teeth appear, you can start using a toothbrush that is especially designed for babies under 1 year. It should be soft, with a small head and a large handle.
You can start by using only a damp toothbrush and then slowly graduate to toothpaste once the first tooth has completely emerged. The amount of toothpaste you should use goes from a size of a grain of rice, up to a pea-sized amount after your little one turns three. Brush gently using circular movements, reaching all the teeth from all sides, and pay special attention to the area where teeth meet the gums. Get your child used to having their teeth brushed twice a day. Do encourage your child to spit after having their teeth brushed, but don’t worry too much if it takes them some time to master this. You should help your child with brushing their teeth until they’re capable of spitting out and rinsing on their own, which is usually around the age of 10 years old. The brushing techniques of children are often optimal from 10 years of age, you can check this after brushing with special tablets which color the teeth that still contain plaque. Replace your little one’s toothbrush every 2 months or as soon as you notice that the bristles are spreading out. The toothpaste you choose should be formulated for your child’s age and it should contain fluoride, which plays a role in tooth decay prevention. Opt for a toothpaste that doesn’t taste fruity so that your child is discouraged from swallowing it.
You can start taking your little one with you to your own dental appointments so that they can get used to the smells, sounds and the looks of the dental office. If you get anxious at the dentist’s, schedule a separate appointment for your child. It is important to allow your child to get used to the dentist before they need to see them for a checkup. Discuss the first check up with your dentist. Make sure that the dentist is relaxed and familiar with children’s dentistry.
Check the teeth regularly for the first signs of tooth decay. If you notice any dark spots or pits on the teeth, you should take your child to the dentist for a check up.
Avoid filling your child’s bottle with sodas, juices, flavored milk and other sugary drinks, and replace them with plain water, breast milk or formula. Sugar is one of the biggest culprits of tooth decay so minimize it in your child’s diet as much as possible. Try to get your child used to drinking from a normal cup as soon as possible and get your child used to drinking the full cup immediately, instead of sipping it every now and then. Avoid putting honey or sugar on your baby’s pacifier and offer healthy snacks, such as cheese or vegetables. If you don’t want to restrict your child completely from sweet foods, limit them to meal times only so that teeth have a chance to recover in the meantime. If using baby food, make sure it doesn’t contain added sugar or other sweeteners.