Dental Care for Newborns and Infants
Dental health and maintenance is a lifelong routine that needs to begin in a child’s infancy and continue throughout their life. Routine dental care is essential in monitoring the proper development milestones of your child’s dental health. One of the goals of Oak Orchard Dental is to educate parents in proper dental care for their children.
Your baby’s gums and teeth should be cared for from birth. After each feeding, a baby’s gums should be wiped with a clean, damp, soft washcloth or a gauze pad. Teething is a normal symptom of teeth beginning to cut through the gums. This often leads to irritability. Gently rubbing a child’s gums with a clean finger or a wet gauze pad can help reduce discomfort.
When the first tooth appears, at approximately six months of age, daily brushing should begin. A children’s soft-bristle tooth brush with a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste should be used. Regular brushing after meals for an infant will condition your child to accept dental care. Oak Orchard’s dental team can demonstrate the correct method for brushing your child’s teeth.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Many babies who go to sleep with a baby bottle can develop severe tooth decay, often in their front teeth. Sometimes, these teeth become so decayed they cause severe pain and may break off or need to be removed. The problem is not the bottle, but what is in it. The sugar in milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juices, and sweet drinks causes the decay. Never allow your baby to nap or sleep at nighttime with a bottle containing these liquids. Never dip the pacifier in any sugary liquid such as honey or syrup.
Give your baby the last feeding before bedtime. Babies who need extra sucking for comfort are satisfied with a bottle of plain water, an extra bonus when the water has fluoride. Do not be upset if your baby sucks its thumb. Thumb sucking only becomes a problem as permanent teeth grow into the mouth (about 5-7 years old).
Nutrition. Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Many snacks that are eaten by children can lead to the development of tooth decay. For healthier and better teeth, dentist and hygienists recommend that parents:
- Limit the number of snacks given to your child each day.
- Substitute snacks with nutritious food such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, cheeses, and fruits.
How to Brush Teeth. Dentists and hygienists recommend that tooth brushing for infants and children should be done by a simple, short, back-and-forth motion to remove plaque. Once children are able to brush their own teeth, the following method should be used:
- Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle outside of front and back teeth. Use a back-and-forth motion with short strokes along the gum line.
- Use short, angled strokes inside of the back teeth.
- Inside of the front teeth, use an up-and-down motion with the brush tilted vertically.
- To brush the flat surfaces, hold the brush flat and use a gentle back-and-forth brushing motion.
Fear of the Dentist. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, parents should bring in a child for the first visit after the first tooth erupts, between 6 and 12 months of age.
This approach allows oral health care professionals to assess the child’s oral health, check for cavities or any early teeth development problems, and give parents advice on what to expect in a child’s oral development and the prevention of cavities.
To prepare your child for a visit to the dentist, parents should:
- First, choose a dentist with whom they are comfortable. If a child perceives that a parent is uneasy, more than likely they will also become tense.
- Tell your child in advance whom they will be visiting and why.
- Allow the dentist to introduce staff and him or herself to the child and show them the equipment they will be using.
Throughout childhood, it is recommended that your child should visit the dentist twice a year for an examination and the hygienist twice a year for cleanings and fluoride treatments.
The Importance of Fluoride. Fluoride is important because it helps reduce the development of tooth decay. Fluoride, a naturally occurring substance, can strengthen tooth enamel by making it more resistant to decay. Also, studies have shown fluoride may be helpful in reducing the harmful effect of plaque and bacteria that forms on teeth and causes decay.
Sources of fluoride are contained in many foods we eat, fluoridated drinking water, toothpaste that contains fluoride, and fluoride mouth rinses. The fluoride in many of our foods and water supplies is the single most effective public health measure to prevent cavities and to improve oral health.
For parents of children living in areas with non-fluoridated water or well water, it is recommended that they seek the advice of the Oak Orchard staff on ways to get fluoride supplements.