Right from the appearance of the very first white bud in your baby’s gums, tooth care becomes important. Your baby's teeth may be tiny and incomplete, but they are still magnets for plaque and sugar which can cause tooth decay in the early years.
Oral health is essential for your baby, and it is never too early to start. Even a small baby with one tooth can have it wiped gently with a soft flannel if their gums are too delicate for a brush. Once the top and bottom teeth are in place, your child’s teeth are busy and taking a bashing from their new diet of solid, sweet, savoury and crunchy foods. If your baby is old enough to have two teeth in a row, they are old enough to get plaque between them. Flossing can also remove hard to reach plaque, but your child will need you to do this for them until they have the motor skills required to perform the task.
Regular brushing is advisable twice each day. There are many incentives available such as character toothbrushes and sugar-free toothpaste in differing flavours and colours. Junior electric toothbrushes are available and increasing in popularity. Once your child is old enough to spit, you can use fluoride toothpaste. Until then, there are many types of age-appropriate toothpaste on the market today.
Set an Example
There are several steps you can take to ensure your child enjoys good oral health. One way to do this is by setting a good example yourself. You can brush and floss with them twice each day and talk positively about it. For example, you can try saying, “I like that minty taste after brushing my teeth.” It's also advisable to take them along with you to the dentist from as early an age as possible so they get accustomed to the visit. Dentist appointments for children are recommended by age two in order to check that their teeth are growing correctly. With the right level of encouragement and positivity, your toddler will enjoy the dentist’s chair and may even get a sticker for his or her visit.
Discourage snacks between meals as plaque can linger on teeth, even after a savoury snack. Sweets are better saved for an occasional treat rather than a daily expectation.
Cups and Bottles
Drinking from a bottle can allow the milk to pool in your child’s mouth. This in turn can erode teeth. Teaching your child to drink from a cup can benefit oral health long term. You can start encouraging them to do this from around the age of twelve months, or earlier if you feel the child is ready. Dentists advise against putting fruit juice or squash and cordials in a baby bottle as these sugary drinks will also pool in the mouth and affect your child's teeth.
Dummies and Thumbs
Whilst dummies can provide great comfort to toddlers, it is helpful to wean them off them by the age of two in order to encourage healthy growth of teeth. Sometimes dummies can cause front teeth to grow crooked. The same effect can be produced when children suck their thumbs. To encourage children to grow out of the thumb-sucking phase, techniques such as reward and praise and bitter tasting nail varnish can be used.