By Christine P. White, MD, FAAP
July 11, 2017
- How you care for your baby’s teeth will set the stage for their oral health for the rest of their lives. That’s a big deal. Baby teeth are the place holders for the permanent teeth. If they decay, they may have to be removed. The gums may develop gingivitis. Permanent teeth will be affected by more pathologic bacteria.
- From the time your baby’s first tooth comes in, you should be brushing that tooth, and any others, TWICE a day. With toothpaste. (See number 4.)
Once your baby has a tooth, you should not give him/her any milk or food at night. Feed the last bottle or breastfeeding before bed; brush their teeth, then no more “milk” until 6 or 7 AM. Night feeds lead to baby bottle caries.
- YOU SHOULD USE ONLY FLUORIDE TOOTHPASTE TO BRUSH YOUR BABY’S/CHILD’S TEETH. NO TRAINING TOOTHPASTE
- Before your child is old enough to spit the paste out reliably, use only a rice-sized dot of paste on the toothbrush. It is OK if they swallow this tiny amount of fluoridated paste.
- Once your child can spit, use a pea-sized amount of paste.
- Once your child is 4 or 5 years old, she can brush her teeth once a day after breakfast. YOU, the parent, must continue to brush your children’s teeth for them at bedtime until they reach the age of 10 years. Yes, that is old. But until that age children lack the fine motor control to brush efficiently.
- Once ANY two of their teeth are touching, those teeth must be flossed. Daily.
- Your child should see a dentist once they have 6 to 8 teeth. This is usually around age 12 to 15 months. Yes, that is young.
- Don’t share your oral bacteria with your baby/child. Don’t put their pacifier in your mouth before giving it to them. Don’t share utensils with them. Your bacteria are likely nastier to teeth than their new naïve bugs.
- YOUR CHILD DOES NOT NEED TO DRINK JUICE. IT IS NOT HEALTHY. At any age juice should only be used as medicine – to help with constipation.
- Your child’s snacks should usually consist of fruits/vegetables, cheese sticks, Greek yogurt sticks, lunch meats, etc. NOT Goldfish and other crackers, pretzels, puffs, veggie straws, etc. These simple carbs stick to their teeth and provide a buffet for the bacteria.
- Your children will NOT remember to brush twice daily and floss each night. No matter what their age, YOU have to remind them to brush and floss. Then you have to remind them again. Then you have to go feel their toothbrush to be sure it’s wet. And you have to do this every night.
- As long as you live in the city limits, use tap water for any of their water needs: to make formula, to brush teeth, to drink. They need the fluoride in the tap water to strengthen their enamel. The recommended level of fluoride in drinking water is 0.7mg per liter of water, or 0.7 parts per million. Check with your water provider to see if your children are getting enough fluoride in their water.