Many parents think that oral healthcare for infant starts when the teeth begin to erupt. However, taking care of baby’s oral health right from birth is equally essential. Healthy gums and teeth help the baby to become cognitive early in life. Healthy mouth enhances a child’s eating habits and helps in speaking clearly. Tooth decay is a common dental infection that occurs as soon as the first set of teeth starts to erupt in the child’s mouth.
Routine dental health care eliminates the formation of early childhood caries, which is very common among infants. It is crucial for parents to understand the importance of infant oral health and have the right information about preventive dental therapies to save their child from the misery of dental pain and discomfort. Even though the first set of teeth are temporary and fall out, it is essential to take care of them as they guide the permanent teeth to erupt correctly.
Knowing the correct approach to oral health care at every stage of a baby’s development will allow the parents to provide the best possible care to their child effectively. (1) Today’s article will highlight the essential preventive methods that every parent should follow at different stages of baby’s oral health development.
Why is it essential to take care of an infant’s oral health?
Tooth decay among infants is a common and rapid process that begins as soon as the first tooth erupts in the mouth.
The main culprit for tooth decay is a disease-causing bacteria called Streptococcus mutans.
A unique characteristic of this bacteria is that it can be transferred from the mother to the baby while sharing a spoon, cup, or testing food before feeding.
As a consequence, it causes infant caries also called early childhood caries. Therefore, it is vital to take care of your dental health before taking care of your child. (2)
Other ways that a baby can develop tooth decay are –
- Exposure to liquids that contain high amounts of sugar
- The habit of drinking formula milk while sleeping
- Decreased intake of water or non-sugared drinks
Tooth decay initially appears as a white spot around the gum line. Most commonly involved teeth are the upper front incisors.
With no proper dental care, the decay progresses and turns brownish black. Eventually, the lesion may further damage the tooth structure and even lead to loss of tooth crown. (3)
Taking good care of your infant’s teeth and gums will take them a long way in living a healthy, disease-free life.
How can you effectively take care of the infant’s oral health?
It takes only four steps to ensure complete oral health care for your child. Follow the steps given below to provide a decay free smile to your child –
Dental care begins from you
The first step towards infant oral health is to ensure that you are disease free. Schedule dental appointments for your cleaning and examination around the second trimester of your pregnancy.
Cleaning of your teeth decreases the risk of bacterial transfer to the babies mouth and prevents the incidence of tooth infection.
Emergency dental treatments like extractions or cosmetic dental procedures can be delayed and carried out after the child is born.
First dental appointment
Baby’s first dental appointment and oral examination should be scheduled no later than one year of age.
The best time is to consult a dentist as soon as the first tooth begins to erupt. First dental appointments take care of the following – (4)
- Dentists will examine the mouth and look for possible signs of dental caries or poor gum health
- Pediatric dentists are well trained in educating parents about dental wellness. They may follow up every six months up until the age of five years.
- Comprehensive and consistent care until five years of age ensures a healthy mouth and also teaches the child the importance of dental health right from childhood.
Take care of the gums
Clean your infant’s gum with a clean and damp washcloth or a gauze piece wrapped around your index finger.
Repeat the process for at least two times a day to decrease food buildup and bacterial prevention. (5)
When the teeth start to erupt, switch to finger toothbrush to allow cleaning of all the surfaces of the tooth.
When the baby starts teething, brush the teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush specifically made for children and use a fluoride free toothpaste.
Continue this habit until the child turns two years in age. Fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children above three or four years of age.
You can consult your dentist to discuss the best toothbrush and toothpaste suitable for your child.
Over to you
Every parent wants their child to live a happy and healthy life. While they may take every step to ensure good health for the baby, taking proper care of oral health is also essential.
Infant dental health care begins right from the time the baby is born. It is crucial for parents to learn and have knowledge about preventive oral care methods.
Tooth decay is a prevalent dental disease. Moreover, dental caries is a rapid progressive process in children as compared to adult teeth.
Maintaining good oral hygiene early in childhood helps to eliminate such dental infections and allows the child to develop excellent speaking and eating skills.
Oral healthcare of infant begins before the primary teeth erupt. Cleaning baby’s gum every day with a clean and damp washcloth removes the food particles from the surface and decreases the bacterial load in the mouth.
Adapting tooth brushing habits as soon as the first tooth erupts provides a clean mouth and familiarizes the child with the process of tooth brushing.
The first dental appointment should be scheduled within one year of age. A dentist will efficiently examine the mouth of the baby and educate the parents on infant oral health care.
Talk to your dentist today to give your child a healthy and happy life.