A common myth about dental care for children suggests that baby teeth matter less than adult teeth since they will eventually fall out. In reality, baby teeth play a vital role in talking, chewing and saving space for eventual permanent teeth. At South Valley Pediatric Dentistry we urge parents to care for baby teeth as soon as they erupt (and even before, but that’s a blog post all it’s own) to prevent dental pain and premature loss of those important baby teeth. Here are some tips for home dental care with infants and toddlers:
1. Tooth brushing – Brush small children’s teeth gently with a soft bristle brush. Help your child every day until they’re old enough to tie their own shoelaces. When they have the dexterity and concentration required to tie shoes, that means they are also capable of brushing thoroughly enough to prevent dental problems. After that just check that they’re getting the back molars and all four quadrants thoroughly.
2. Drinking – Water is the healthiest drink for teeth as well as for your child. Only give your child juice about once a day with meals. If your child will only drink juice, water it down about halfway to dilute the sugars that harm teeth.
Children should also avoid milk before bed. Milk contains natural sugars called lactose. When milk is the last thing in a baby’s mouth before bed, the milk sugars begin to wear down the teeth, which leads to a condition known as bottle rot. Water should always be the last thing in your child’s mouth before bed or nap time.
3. Sweet Snacking – Avoid sticky, sugary foods like gummy candies and fruit snacks, which can stick to the teeth and cause cavities and decay. Fresh or dried fruit can often replace candy and fruit snacks, if your child has a major sweet tooth. Hint: Try frozen grapes (which have a satisfying sweetness and an ice cream like texture) instead of sticky popsicles and dried cranberries instead of fruit snacks.
4. Ban Biting: Discourage fingernail and object biting. Foreign materials can damage teeth and create microscopic fissures (cracks) on the teeth, which are the perfect spot for bacteria and plaque to hide. Check out this article from Baby Center to learn more about how to stop nail biting.