Kids in the U.S. suffer from tooth decay more than any other infectious disease. To help reverse this trend, parents and caretakers need to take good care of baby teeth and start healthy oral hygiene habits early.
The American Dental Association urges parents to set up their child’s first visit to the dentist within six months of the first tooth’s eruption, and by age one at the latest. These early visits serve as “well baby checkups” for the teeth and let the dentist observe the child’s mouth for signs of problems.
Starting an Infant Oral Health Regimen
Start cleaning your baby’s mouth a few days after birth. Wipe the gums after every feeding with a clean soft cloth or gauze pad. This will help to remove bits of food and remove plaque from the gums.
In general, primary teeth come in around six or seven months of age. In some cases, baby teeth may be present at birth. As soon as teeth appear, tooth decay is a concern. Because of this, gently brush new teeth with a child-size toothbrush and water.
At the age of two, begin using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Take care that the child spits out the paste, then rinse well with water.
The sugar in milk, fruit juice, or other drinks can cause baby bottle tooth decay. So be sure that infants finish their bottles, and then clean the baby’s teeth prior to naps or sleep. Baby teeth are quite prone to decay, and damage can happen fast.
Teething: The Eruption of Baby Teeth
By the age of three, most kids will have a full set of twenty primary teeth. As they go through the teething process (from the time teeth begin to come in up to about three years of age), kids may have sore gums and general oral discomfort.
A child may be having a painful primary tooth eruption if he or she:
- Gets cranky
- Loses appetite
- Drools more than usual
- Is restless
- Has a rosy-cheeked appearance
- Coughs continuously
- Complains of an upset stomach
Some kids chew or suck their fingers or toys to seek relief. Though thumb sucking may ease teething symptoms, pediatric dentists do not recommend it, because the habit will prevent normal development of the child’s permanent teeth.
Instead, gently rub the child’s gums with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon, or a bit of damp gauze. You can also buy special teething devices.