What can I do to keep my infant’s teeth healthy?

While baby teeth are eventually replaced by adult teeth, baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth. Teeth are important for chewing, speaking, and holding the necessary spaces for adult teeth. This means that early loss of baby teeth can result in difficulties eating, speech impediments, and misaligned adult teeth. Thus, it should be clear that ensuring the health of your infant’s teeth is critically important to their long-term oral health.

Before your baby’s teeth appear, clean their gums by gently washing them with a washcloth or gauze pad. Infants’ first teeth usually come in at around 6 months of age, but can be present at birth or show up as late as 1 year after birth. Once teeth have appeared, brushing should start immediately. Brush your baby’s teeth twice a day using a small smear of fluoride toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice.

To prevent decay, avoid any sugary drinks, including juice (which can contain as much sugar as a typical soda). Milk also contains sugar, so it should be followed up with water. Don’t fill bottles with sweet drinks, and avoid allowing your child to sleep with a bottle. Do not use your mouth to clean or taste a bottle or food before putting it in a baby’s mouth. This can transfer cavity causing bacteria to your baby’s mouth, just as a cold can be transferred from one person to another.

When your child is old enough to brush their own teeth—around 3 to 6 years of age—be sure to supervise their brushing. They should use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, and brush twice a day. Take the time to teach them proper brushing technique, and do not allow them to swallow any toothpaste. They should start flossing as soon as any teeth are close enough together to touch. Again, carefully supervise flossing, and teach them proper technique.

Feel free to talk to your dentist if you need assistance in teaching your children proper dental care, or to get more tips about how to keep your children’s teeth healthy.