By Jamell Andrews
Though most people really do not think about it much, baby teeth serve a very important purpose. Baby teeth help your infant learn how to speak and chew food properly, and they act as a type of space saver for the adult teeth that will grow in a few years down the road. Baby teeth also promote healthy jaw growth, so it is important for parents to take care of these teeth from the beginning.
Expectant mothers can play a tremendous role in establishing healthy dental care practices by eating foods that are healthy and nutritious, and by keeping themselves healthy throughout their pregnancy. If you are an expectant mother, make sure you take your prenatal vitamins, consume the amounts of calcium recommended by your doctor, and make sure your body gets enough protein.
When babies are about 6 or 7 months old, the very first tooth usually makes an appearance. Parents do not need to wait that long, however, before starting a healthy dental care routine. Tooth decay can actually begin before any teeth are visible, resulting from residual amounts of milk or juice that remain around the gums for extended periods of time. For this reason, you should not let your baby fall asleep while he is drinking a bottle of juice or milk. You should also not allow him to carry a bottle around with him throughout the day.
Caring for Baby’s Teeth and Gums
Before your baby starts to grow teeth, gently wipe his gums a couple of times each day with a clean, wet piece of gauze. Wrap the gauze around your finger so that you can apply the least amount of pressure while cleaning his gums. Once his first tooth has made an appearance, you will be ready to start using a toothbrush, but make sure that you choose one that has been specially designed for babies.
As a general rule, you should not use toothpaste on your child’s teeth until he is at least two years old. Some pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend that parents wait until a baby is three years of age. When you do begin using toothpaste on your baby’s tooth (or teeth), only use a small amount and make sure that he does not swallow any of it. As soon as your baby has two teeth that are next to each other, you should start using dental floss on them every day.
By the time your baby is one year old, you should start taking him to see a pediatric dentist. It is important that you take your child to a dental professional who is experienced in treating children, and then make sure that you stick to a regular routine that consists of semi-annual visits for checkups. You might also want to ask your child’s dentist if fluoride treatments would be appropriate for him, as many areas throughout the United States have access to treated water that has had the fluoride removed from it.