How to Care for Baby Teeth
Baby teeth are important for many reasons. Aside from allowing infants and toddlers the ability to chew their food and nourish their growing bodies, baby teeth are space holders for future adult teeth. Dentists know that caring for your child’s teeth is an integral part of their overall health. Keeping baby teeth clean and decay-free will set the stage for a life time of good oral hygiene and pleasant dental experiences. If a baby tooth does decay or form a cavity, the tooth should be restored as soon as possible. Parents often wonder why they should fill baby teeth if they are just going to fall out. The answer is, some baby teeth do not exfoliate until a child is in their early teens. A decayed baby tooth may become infected and cause the child pain, or worse, develop into a serious, systemic infection. Removing a baby tooth before it naturally falls out can cause future orthodontic problems such as crowding. Parents can avoid many of these problems by following some basic tips and guidelines.
- As soon as your child turns 1 year old, or when their first tooth erupts, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you and your child visit a dentist. Your dentist will take the opportunity to examine your child as well as provide nutrition and oral hygiene care counseling and consultation.
- Baby teeth in infants can be cleaned with a clean wash cloth, or gauze square. As children grow, toddler toothbrushes can be used. Daily tooth cleaning from the start will help your child become accustomed to dental hygiene care.
- Floss is not usually needed until a toddler’s back or front teeth are touching. Child-sized flossers are a great way to introduce the art of flossing to your child. As kids grow, they can begin practicing with regular floss.
- Until your child is able to tie his or her own shoes and write well, they will need parental guidance with brushing and flossing. Children do not have the fine motor skills necessary to effectively clean their own teeth.
- Toddler or fluoride-free toothpaste can be used on young children who cannot spit properly. Once your child is able to spit while brushing and flossing, you can begin using small amounts of fluoride toothpaste. A “pea-sized” amount is more than plenty for children. Fluoride is great for teeth, but not safe for children to swallow. Parents should monitor children who use fluoridated toothpastes.
- Fluoride toothpaste can be effective on younger children, but very small amounts should be used. If parents use toothpaste with fluoride on their toddlers, it should be wiped off of their teeth with a cloth before the child accidently swallows any of the paste. Parents should use this method only under the advisement of their dentist.
- Rinse is generally not needed for children. However, if your child likes to rinse and also is able to spit well, there are plenty of kid-taste-approved rinses on the market. Just be sure to monitor any children rinsing with fluoridated mouth washes.
- Be sure to take your child to the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup. This will prevent problems from occurring. Should your child develop a cavity, make sure you treat the tooth in a timely fashion.
- As always, limit sweets, juices, and sugar intake in your children. Baby bottle tooth decay is a common and severe condition seen in infants and toddlers who routinely go to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of milk or juice. Nighttime bottles and cups should only contain water.