Infant and Toddler Oral Health
Keeping teeth healthy starts long before the first dental visit. Here are some ideas for how to keep your little one's mouth healthy from the start, establishing habits that will give your child a jump start on a healthy and bright smile for the rest of his or her life!
How can I care for my infant’s gums and teeth?
Many parents do not realize that cavity-causing (cariogenic) bacteria can be transmitted from the mother or father to the child. This transmission happens via the sharing of eating utensils and the “cleaning” of pacifiers in the parent’s mouth. Parents should endeavor to use different eating utensils from their infants and to rinse pacifiers with warm water as opposed to sucking them.
Parents should also adhere to the following guidelines to enhance infant oral health:
Wipe gums – An infant is at risk for early cavities as soon as the first tooth emerges. For young infants, wipe the gums with a damp cloth after every feeding. This reduces oral bacteria and minimizes the risk of early cavities.
Brush – Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny sliver of ADA approved non-fluoridated toothpaste (for children under two), gently brush the teeth twice each day.
Floss – As soon as two adjacent teeth appear in the infant’s mouth, cavities can form between the teeth. Ask the dentist for advice on the best way to floss the infant’s teeth.
Pacifier use – Pacifiers are a soothing tool for infants. If you decide to purchase a pacifier, choose an orthodontically correct model (you can ask the pediatric dentist for recommendations). Be sure not to dip pacifiers in honey or any other sweet liquid.
Use drinking glasses – Baby bottles and sippy cups are largely responsible for infant and toddler tooth decay. Both permit a small amount of liquid to repeatedly enter the mouth. Consequently, sugary liquid (milk, soda, juice, formula, breast milk or sweetened water) is constantly swilling around in the infant’s mouth, fostering bacterial growth and expediting tooth decay. Only offer water in sippy cups, and discontinue their use after the infant’s first birthday.
Visit the dentist – Around the age of one, the infant should visit a dentist for a “well baby” appointment. The dentist will examine tooth and jaw development, and provide strategies for future oral care.
If you have further questions about infant and toddler oral care, please contact our practice.