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Early Infant Oral Care


Early Infant Oral Care

Perinatal & Infant Oral Health

Pediatric Dentist - Perinatal & Infant Oral HealthThe American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling during pregnancy. Research has shown that periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Talk to your dentist about ways you can prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy.

Additionally, parents with poor oral health may be at a greater risk of passing the bacteria from their mouths to their child which causes cavities to their young children. Parents should follow these simple steps to decrease the risk of spreading cavity-causing bacteria:

  • Visit your dentist regularly.
  • Brush and floss on a daily basis to reduce bacterial plaque.
  • Maintain a proper diet, with the reduction of beverages and foods high in sugar & starch.
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste recommended by the ADA and rinse every night with an alcohol-free, over-the-counter mouth rinse with sodium fluoride in order to reduce plaque levels.
  • Don't share utensils, cups or food which can cause the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria between you and your children.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries)

Pediatric Dentist - Baby Bottle Tooth DecayOne serious form of decay among young children is known as “baby bottle tooth decay”. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposure of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.

Putting a baby to bed for a nap or to sleep at night with a bottle filled with something other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water. If your child has difficulty falling asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle's contents with water over a period of several weeks.

After each feeding, wipe your baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily. It is recommended that you wait 15 - 20 minutes to brush your teeth after meals or partaking in food or drink that can lead to tooth decay to allow the oral fluids to neutralize the acids the bacteria produce.

Sippy Cups

Sippy cups should be used as a training tool from the bottle to a cup and should be discontinued by the first birthday. If your child uses a sippy cup throughout the day, fill the sippy cup with water only (except at mealtimes). By filling the sippy cup with milk or liquids that contain sugar (fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.) and allowing a child to drink from it throughout the day a constant nutrient source is available to the naturally occurring mouth bacteria stimulating acid production which eventually breaks down the tooth enamel causing tooth decay.

Care of Your Child's Teeth

Developing good oral hygiene habits early sets the stage for lifelong dental health. As the first teeth erupt, be sure to check them frequently looking for discoloration are defects that may be an early sign of decay. If the teeth are not brushed after feeding or eating your child may develop cavities early in life. We recommend brushing your child’s teeth after every meal and after drinking sugary drinks or eating sugary food. Remember that mother’s milk and formula can also cause decay if teeth are not brushed after feeding. If you notice signs of decay, contact Dr. West immediately.

What to look for in a Tooth Brush

When selecting a toothbrush you should choose one that has a comfortable handle, small head and soft bristles. In fact everyone should use a toothbrush with soft bristles; this will be much gentler on the gum tissue which surrounds each tooth. Many grocery and drug stores have tooth brush displays and many toothbrushes now have age ranges listed that they are best suited for. If you need further help selecting your child’s toothbrush please let us know, we can give you recommendations best suited for your child.

What's The Best Toothpaste For My Child?

Tooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. Many toothpastes, and/or tooth polishes, however, can damage young smiles because they contain harsh abrasives, which can wear away young tooth enamel. We will be happy to guide you in your selection of children’s toothpaste, however, when in doubt it is best to select toothpaste that has the seal of the American Dental Association – look for the ADA seal on the box and tube. These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use. There are other great toothpastes now available which may be recommended if your child presents with certain concerns.

Use only a smear of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) to brush the teeth of a child less than three (3) years of age. For children three to six (3-6) years old, use a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s tooth brushing.

Although we recommend using toothpaste, the toothpaste is not necessary to clean teeth, the toothbrush cleans the teeth. Toothpaste helps to freshen the breath and deliver fluoride to the teeth which is known to be very beneficial.

Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively on their own. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that an adult help a child brush their teeth until age eight (8) and help them floss until the age of ten (10).

How Do I get My Child to Brush?

Every child is different when it comes to brushing. Usually, the compliance level is related to the personality of the child. Strong-willed children may be more obstinent when it comes to brushing. Most children want to display their independence by wanting to brush their own teeth. A child does not possess the coordination to properly clean their teeth until seven (7) or eight (8) years of age. Therefore, it is important for the parent to do the cleaning on younger children even though the child wants to “brush” on their own which usually really is playing or chewing on the toothbrush. As the child gets older, it then becomes important for the parent to “oversee” the brushing. An important point to remember is that “you only clean the teeth that you touch”. Therefore, the areas that are not touched with the toothbrush are not going to get cleaned. In addition, once the child has a full set of baby teeth (usually by three years of age), it is important to incorporate flossing into the cleaning routine. The toothbrush can touch most of the surfaces of the teeth with the exception of the tooth-to-tooth contact areas. The most common areas for cavities to develop are the contact areas between the molars in the back part of the mouth. It is not only important to brush but also important to floss.

Brushing Tips:

  • Starting at birth, clean your child's gums with a soft cloth and water.
  • As soon as your child's teeth erupt, brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Be sure and use ADA accepted fluoride toothpaste and make sure your child does not swallow it.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends an adult supervise the child's tooth brushing until the age of eight (8), some children may need supervision longer to assure they are doing a good job on their own.

Flossing Tips:

  • Flossing removes plaque between teeth and under the gum line where a toothbrush can't reach.
  • Flossing should begin when any two adjacent teeth begin to touch.
  • Be sure and floss your child's teeth daily until he or she can do it alone.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends an adult supervise the child's flossing until the age of ten (10), or until the child demonstrates they can do a good job on their own.