Optimal oral health for children starts in their formative years, specifically from birth to the age of 5. It’s important to establish good oral health practices to keep your child’s dental health in check. From birth to toddler age, we lay down all the things you need to know about how to take care of your child’s oral health.
Oral health is often neglected during the first few weeks after a baby is born. But even without them growing their first set of baby teeth, it’s important to still practice oral hygiene to mitigate the risks of tooth decay in infants. From birth, remember to start the following oral health habits:
Your baby’s gums need to be cleaned with a moist washcloth every after feeding. Wrap a small, moist washcloth around your index finger and gently massage the gums, making sure to cover all areas.
Your baby will start teething anywhere between 4 to 6 months after they are born. They will experience itchiness, discomfort, and sometimes even redness and swelling. Other signs that they have begun teething are an increased flow of saliva and the desire to chew and bite on objects.
You can help ease the discomfort for your baby by giving them a teething ring. It’s also good to chill it beforehand as cold temperatures can help soothe gum discomfort. Continue the regular practice of massaging their gums with a moist washcloth.
For infants, tooth decay can be transmissible and it’s easy to transfer bacteria with utensils, teething toys, milk bottles, etc. As much as possible, avoid sharing utensils, pacifiers, and bottles. Also, refrain from testing the temperature of the milk with your mouth to lessen bacteria transmission.
Baby teeth will begin coming out as early as 6 months after your baby is born and will continue erupting until they are 2 years old. This is the time when you have to pay more attention to their dental health to ensure that their baby teeth grow properly and fall out at the right time. Even baby teeth can fall victim to cavities and tooth decay.
As soon as the first baby teeth erupt, you can start brushing them using a soft-bristled brush and water. It’s not required to use toothpaste at this point.
The earlier you can get your child out of sucking milk bottles, the better for their dental health. Slowly wean them from drinking from a bottle and introduce cups for water, juice, and other beverages.
Inspecting your child’s baby teeth regularly can help you spot any signs of tooth decay or cavities early on. If you notice any brown or small white spots, take your baby to the dentist right away.
Your baby’s first trip to the dentist should be within 6 months after their first tooth erupts or on their first birthday, whichever comes first. The dentist can help advise you on how to improve their dental health and answer any questions or concerns you may have about teething or other oral care activities.
At the age of 2 to 3 years, all of your child’s baby teeth should have erupted. Children grow 20 baby teeth, with the top and bottom front teeth coming out first and the molars erupting last. Around the age of 5, your child’s baby teeth will start falling out to be replaced by permanent teeth.
When your child is 2 years old, they can begin brushing with toothpaste. Use only a small amount, ideally the size of a grain of rice.
Make sure you teach your child how to brush properly, covering all areas of the mouth for two whole minutes. It will be helpful to brush with them so they can imitate how it’s done. Watch and make sure that they don’t swallow the toothpaste.
This is also a good time to educate your child on how to properly take care of their teeth, such as avoiding sweets, regularly brushing and drinking water, etc.
Dentist appointments should continue twice every year. This builds the foundation for great oral health. If your child is still thumb sucking or asking for the pacifier, talk to their dentist about your concerns.
It’s never too early to form good oral health habits. How you take care of your child’s teeth when they are young will form the foundation of their overall health and wellness.