Early Infant Oral Care

Perinatal & Infant Oral Health

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling. Research has shown that periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Talk to your doctor or dentist about preventing periodontal disease during pregnancy.

Mothers with poor oral health can also pass harmful substances to their children, resulting in tooth decay. You can follow these simple steps to decrease the risk of spreading cavity-causing bacteria:

  • Visit your dentist regularly.
  • Brush and floss daily to reduce bacterial plaque.
  • Follow a proper diet and reduce your intake of beverages and foods high in sugar and starch.
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste recommended by the ADA. Rinse every night using a mouthwash without alcohol and with .05 % sodium fluoride to reduce plaque build-ups.
  • Don't share utensils, cups, or food, as they can transmit cavity-causing bacteria to your children.
  • Chew on four pieces of xylitol gum a day to decrease your child's caries rate.

Your Child's First Dental Visit - Establishing A "Dental Home"

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommend establishing a "Dental Home" for your child when they turn one year old. Children who have a dental home are more likely to receive appropriate preventive and routine oral health care.

A dental home is another place parents can turn to aside from the emergency room.

You can turn your child's first visit to the dentist into an enjoyable and positive experience. For example, if your kid is old enough, you can tell them about the appointment and that the dentist and their staff will explain all procedures and answer any questions.

It's best if you refrain from using words around your child that might cause unnecessary fear, such as "needle," "pull," "drill," or "hurt." Pediatric dental offices explain with vocabulary that conveys the same message without frightening the child.

When Will My Baby Start Getting Teeth?

Teething is when baby or primary teeth come out, and the onset varies from baby to baby. Generally, the first baby teeth to appear are the lower front, or anterior, teeth when the child is six to eight months old.

See "Eruption of Your Child's Teeth" for more details.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries)

One severe form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant's teeth to sugary liquids, such as breast and regular milk, formula, or fruit juice.

Putting a baby to bed with a bottle of a sweetened drink can cause severe and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid accumulates around the child's teeth, allowing plaque and bacteria to produce acids and attack tooth enamel. If you must give your baby a bottle to comfort them at bedtime, it should only contain water. 

When your child doesn't fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the contents with water for two to three weeks. After each feeding, wipe the baby's gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. You can sit down and place the child's head over your lap or lay them on a dressing table or the floor. Regardless of your position, ensure you can see your kid's mouth easily.

Sippy Cups

You can use sippy cups as a training tool to help your kid transition from a bottle to a cup, but you should stop this habit by your child's first birthday. If your kid uses a sippy cup all day, fill it with water only, except at mealtimes. When your child drinks sugary liquids throughout the day using their sippy cup, their teeth get soaked in bacteria that produce cavities.

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