To establish a good oral health routine for your baby, follow these simple steps.
1. Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean soft, wet, baby washcloth before the first teeth come in. This will reduce bacteria and help your baby become accustomed to oral care.
2. Once baby’s first tooth comes in, use an infant toothbrush with children’s tooth gel, such as Spry tooth gel without fluoride to gently clean the teeth. Spry tooth gel contains xylitol, a natural sweetner found in plants that decreases bacteria and tooth decay. Do not use fluoridated toothpaste as babies swallow toothpaste and fluoride can cause an upset stomach. Fluoridated toothpaste is not recommended for children under six years old. Continue cleaning baby’s gums with a soft, wet baby washcloth or with an infant toothbrush. Spiffies dental wipes with xylitol is another option. Xylitol products can be purchased at health food stores.
3. As soon as baby’s first tooth comes in, usually around six months old, introduce a sippy cup. Allowing an infant to fall asleep while breast feeding causes a pool of breast milk to stay in baby’s mouth, increasing the risk of cavities. A baby should never be put to bed with a bottle of juice or infant formula since this causes a condition called baby bottle tooth decay. If baby wants a bottle at bedtime, fill it with water only. Juice should only be given at mealtimes to reduce risk of tooth decay.
4. Avoid using teething gels that contain benzocaine, a numbing agent. There is a small risk for infants in developing a blood disorder that prevents hemoglobin from binding to oxygen and carrying it to cells. It can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, increased heart rate, and skin discoloration. Instead, use a teething ring that can be cooled in a refrigerator or freezer.
5. Avoid sharing spoons, cups, or kissing your baby on the lips. Bacteria from your mouth can be transferred to your baby, establishing an environment ready for decay even before your baby’s first tooth comes in.
A helpful tip:
An easy way to brush your baby’s teeth is to sit on the floor with baby lying in your lap, head against your stomach and feet away from you. This allows easy access into baby’s mouth and minimizes risk of inserting a toothbrush too far in a squirming infant.
Your baby can be seen in a dental office when the first tooth comes in, usually around six months old and should be seen no later than the age of one year. At this appointment, an evaluation of your baby’s mouth and a risk assessment for cavities will be completed. A demonstration of how to brush your baby’s teeth will also be performed. This is a great time to ask any questions you may have about your baby’s oral health or address any concerns. Waiting until age two or three can be too late. Many children by this age have baby bottle tooth decay.