Here are 15 top tips for keeping milk teeth healthy and clean.
WORDS DR NICOLA DAVIES
1. Begin at Birth
Use a washcloth or small, dry piece of gauze to rub your baby’s gums, especially after feeding and before nap time and bed time. Bacteria can grow on the gums as well.
2. Never Let Your Baby Fall Asleep with a Bottle in their Mouth.
Whether milk or juice, the fluid contains sugars, and a sleeping baby’s saliva is a perfect breeding place for dental decaying bacteria to grow. Letting your baby sleep on the breast is the same – a NO-NO!
3. Keep Away from the Sweet Treats
Try to have your child eat any sweet treats following a meal, rather than waiting. Then, you can clean the teeth and feel more confident that there is nothing left behind. Snacking after a meal is dessert, and will help your child to equate sweets with the meal, thus developing healthier eaters.
4. Brush, Baby, Brush
Begin brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear, using a child size toothbrush and a rice size amount of fluoride toothpaste. Babies don’t know how to spit out the toothpaste yet, so be sure to remove any extra toothpaste after brushing. There are children’s toothpaste available that will not cause discomfort if swallowed. Also, massage the gums where the tooth has yet to erupt.
5. Keep Brushing
Practice brushing with your child once they can spit out the extra fluoride and not swallow toothpaste. You should continue supervising teeth brushing until you are confident your child can brush on their own. This usually happens around age six or seven.
6. Keeping it Clean
Try not to put a pacifier in your mouth to clean it; your saliva may have more harmful bacteria than your baby’s, and cleaning a pacifier with your saliva can transfer bacteria. If another pacifier or a tissue isn’t available to wipe it off, try to distract your child from wanting it back. If the little one is too fussy, wipe it on the cleanest material you can find before giving it back.
7. Another Pacifier No-no
Never put anything sweet (like sugar or honey) on your baby’s pacifier.
8. No Sharing, Please!
Do not share food or utensils with your child. Again, you could be transferring bacteria to their mouth.
9. Take a Sip
Encourage your child to drink from a sippy cup as early as their first birthday. Baby bottles should only be filled with baby formula, breast milk, electrolytes used for diarrhoea, or water. If you give your child fruit juice or soda (which has NO nutritional value), try diluting it with water to lessen the amount of sugar consumed.
10. Time for a Check-up
Take your child to the dentist for a check-up at 12 months of age, or sooner, if teeth have been erupting for more than six months.
11. See You Again!
Continue regular visits to the dentist at least once per year, but preferably twice. Going to the dentist can be a frightening experience; however, starting early can help your child feel more comfortable and relaxed.
12. Your Turn for a Visit
Set a good example and visit the dentist regularly yourself.
13. No Smoking!
Make sure your baby avoids second-hand smoke as much as possible. Never smoke if you are holding your baby, and leave the room if you do want to smoke. You should also insist family members or friends smoke outside or in another room.
14. Fluoride Matters
Be sure your water is supplied with fluoride. If not, talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments. Dentists can also brush on a “sealant” that helps to protect teeth from decay.
15. Don’t Forget to Floss!
Begin flossing once all the milk teeth have erupted.