Proper care of your child's teeth and gums includes brushing and rinsing daily. It also includes having routine dental exams, and getting necessary treatments such as fluoride, extractions, fillings, or braces and other orthodontics.
Healthy teeth and gums are essential to your child's overall good health. Injured, diseased, or poorly developed teeth can result in:
- Poor nutrition
- Painful and dangerous infections
- Problems with speech development
- Poor self-image
CARING FOR AN INFANT'S TEETH
Even though newborns and infants do not have teeth, it is important to take care of their mouth and gums. Follow these tips:
- Use a damp washcloth to wipe your infant's gums after each meal.
- Do NOT put your infant or young child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or sugar water. Use only water for bedtime bottles.
- Begin using a soft toothbrush instead of a washcloth to clean your child's teeth as soon as his first tooth shows (usually between 5 - 8 months of age).
- Ask your child's health care provider if your infant needs to take oral fluoride.
THE FIRST TRIP TO THE DENTIST
- Your child's first visit to the dentist should be between the time the first tooth appears (5 - 8 months) and the time when all the primary teeth are visible (before 2 1/2 years).
- Many dentists recommend a "trial" visit. This can help the child get used to the child to the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the office before the actual exam.
- Children who are accustomed to having their gums wiped and teeth brushed every day will be more comfortable going to the dentist.
CARING FOR A CHILD'S TEETH
- The child's teeth and gums should be brushed at least twice each day and especially before bed. Electric tooth brushes clean teeth better than manual ones.
- Take your child to a dentist every 6 months. Let the dentist know if your child thumb sucks or breathes through the mouth.
- Teach your child how to play safe and what to do if a tooth is broken or knocked out. If you act quickly, you can often save the tooth.
- When your child gets permanent teeth, he or she should begin flossing each evening before going to bed.
- When the child reaches the teens, braces or extractions may be needed to prevent long-term problems.
Ng MW. Early childhood caries: risk-based disease prevention and management. Dent Clin North Am. 2013; 57(1):1-16
Chou R, Cantor A, Zakher B, et al. Preventing dental caries in children <5 years: systematic review updating USPSTF recommendation. Pediatrics. 2013; 132(2); 332-50.
Douglass JM. A practical guide to infant oral health. Am Fam Physician
Update Date 2/25/2014
Updated by: Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Palm Beach Prosthodontics Dental Associates, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.