Did you know that teeth are formed even before the baby is born? As the baby grows after birth, the temporary teeth get ready to erupt. Between 6 to 12 months, the baby gets her first tooth, and by the age of 3 years, all temporary teeth have erupted.
The first tooth to erupt is usually the bottom central tooth, followed by upper central tooth. It is advisable to keep the child’s teeth and mouth healthy. Oral health does not happen on its own. Parents must take active measures to ensure their children’s oral health.
What steps should be taken to see that toddler has healthy teeth and gums and is free from oral health issues? Preventive oral care is very necessary to keep the child free of dental issues in later life. It is beneficial on the pocket also. About 40% of the costs on oral health can be saved if the child visits the dentist in its first year rather than in his 5th year.
Visit to the dentist
It is important that even before the first tooth erupts, you take your child to see the dentist and get him familiarized with the dentist’s chair. The first visit should be a social one where no oral issues are discussed.
After the first visit when the baby shows signs of erupting the first tooth, the second visit to the dentist is in order. The dentist will be able to check if the tooth which is erupting has no issues which needs to be looked into.
Good oral care habits
It is proven that the habits that we learn early in life will stay forever with us. As soon as the baby cuts the first tooth, parents should start ‘brushing’ the tooth. Take a miniscule amount of baby toothpaste on the finger and gently massage the gum and go over the tiny tooth. Then wipe it clean with a wet wash cloth. This will get the baby used to the idea of cleaning the teeth regularly. You may also use very soft baby toothbrush and put water on it instead of tooth paste.
After your baby has grown older, about 2 years of age, let the child help you hold the brush and put a tiny amount of baby toothpaste and gently brush the teeth. Letting the child help you brushing his teeth gives him pride and helps develop the habit.
You will have to wait to use a bigger tooth brush and toothpaste till they learns how to spit out the foam and how to spit out the water after brushing.
The best way to supervise the brushing habit is to stand or sit behind the child and help in learning to brush his teeth. Cup the toddlers chin in your hand, and hold the brush along with the child. Use back and forth motion gently and clean his tongue with the brush too. If followed for a few weeks, the child will learn to brush his ow teeth when he is able to spit out the foam and water.
Small children enjoy brushing ritual if it made interesting with singing along, or making it fun with stories or make-believe plays.
Do not use fluoride tooth pastes for children below age of 2 years.
Baby bottle decay
Bacteria in the mouth work on sugar and this process builds plaque in the mouth. Acid is a by-product of this process and it corrodes the teeth and damage the gums. When the baby goes to sleep in the night, the sugar left in the mouth from his last feed is a lot to work with for the bacteria. When you tuck in the baby for the night see that his mouth is clean. Do not leave the juice or milk bottle in his mouth for the night. It provides enough food for bacteria to cause decay in the mouth. This is known as ‘baby bottle decay’. If at all you have to give a bottle to the baby before going to bed, see that there is only water in the bottle, no juice or milk.
Healthy food habits
It is a good practice for children’s oral health to avoid juices and sugary drinks. Many parents believe that juice is healthy for the baby. Even if it is 100% juice, limit the fruit juice intake to one cup or about 4 ounces per day. Fruit juice can be given at mealtimes along with other foods. Give non sugary unsweetened foods and drinks to your baby. Sweetened drinks can be given occasionally as a treat, not as a meal.
Use of bottle and sippy cups
Restrict the use of bottle as the bottle is not easy to keep clean. Cups are easier to handle. But as a weaning method, parents use sippy cups before using the normal cups. If sippy cups are used for long, the back of the front teeth gets decay because sugar in the drinks tend to get stuck on the back of the teeth.
The above guidelines, if followed religiously, will help develop and maintain excellent oral and dental health for your toddler.