Many patients often ask how to take care of their children's oral health. Whether they are babies, or toddlers, oral care for them should be just as important for them as it is for you.
Babies go through a period after they are born where they have no teeth erupted. Their diet consists of breast milk or formula and it is important to know that there is sugar in the lactose from the milk. Although there are no teeth in their mouth, cleaning is important.
Bacteria is transferred to our babies from us. When we kiss our babies, bacteria is transferred. Putting our fingers in their mouth also transmits bacteria. When the baby drops their pacifier and we put it in our mouth to "clean" it, bacteria is transferred (not recommended).
For babies who have no teeth, getting them used to something in their mouth is recommended and makes toothbrush transition easier. At bath time simply take a wet facecloth and wrap it around your index finger and gently wipe their gums (no toothpaste). At around 6 months of age, you should expect the first tooth eruption. You can purchase a baby toothbrush or a "finger" brush and gently brush their teeth and gums.
Diet is huge for children when it comes to tooth decay. Milk in a bottle at bedtime is not recommended as the sugar in the lactose sits in the mouth over night and bacteria has the chance to start the decay process. Frequent bottle drinking can lead to baby bottle decay which happens at the front teeth area. Try to ensure proper cleaning of the oral cavity and keep it clean for bedtime. Juice is also an issue because of the sugars. Try to water down your children's juice and decrease the amount of times a day they consume it. It's better to have too much at once then too little at various times of the day. Poor diet can increase the risk of interproximal cavities (between the teeth). Snacking/drinking sugary drinks before bedtime after brushing can also lead to an increased risk of interproximal cavities.
Children's toothpaste can be used as well to get them used to a texture in their mouth while brushing. Ensure you are aware that most children's toothpastes contain sweeteners and ensure that you limit the amount that you use. Rinsing with water after is also recommended
Toddlers: Allow them to brush on their own like a big boy or girl. Then tell them you want to get the rest of the sugar bugs out. Make it fun for them and brush your teeth alongside them. Ideally, you want your child to brush for 2 full minutes. When they are brushing well on their own, praise them! At the point of which you feel comfortable they will no longer swallow the toothpaste, you can switch them to fluoridated toothpaste. Encourage them to spit, even with the children's tooth paste. Tell them, "Don't swallow the sugar bugs!"
Teething babies: Try to soak a clean baby facecloth in chamomile tea for babies in discomfort. Place it in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for an hour. Remove the cloth from the bag. The chamomile will help soothe the baby and your baby can chew on the cold cloth which will help to massage the ridges in the gums (adds pressure) and the cold will help to numb the pain.
You can start to bring your child to the dentist at around the age of 2 years old. When you come in for your visit, they can have a ride in the chair, have their teeth counted and meet Dr Gray to get them used to the environment. This will make the next visit much easier for them.
If you have questions regarding your children's oral health, please contact the office or talk to your dental hygienist.