Healthy teeth and gums are essential to your child's overall good health. Injured, diseased, or poorly developed teeth can result in:
- Poor nutrition
- Painful and dangerous infections
- Problems with speech development
- Poor self-image
CARING FOR AN INFANT'S TEETH
Even though newborns and infants do not have teeth, it is important to take care of their mouth and gums. Follow these tips:
- Use a damp washcloth to wipe your infant's gums after each meal.
- Do NOT put your infant or young child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or sugar water. Use only water for bedtime bottles.
- Begin using a soft toothbrush instead of a washcloth to clean your child's teeth as soon as his first tooth shows (usually between 5 - 8 months of age).
- Ask your child's health care provider if your infant needs to take oral fluoride.
THE FIRST TRIP TO THE DENTIST
- Your child's first visit to the dentist should be between the time the first tooth appears (5 - 8 months) and the time when all the primary teeth are visible (before 2 1/2 years).
- Many dentists recommend a "trial" visit. This can help the child get used to the child to the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the office before the actual exam.
- Children who are accustomed to having their gums wiped and teeth brushed every day will be more comfortable going to the dentist.
CARING FOR A CHILD'S TEETH
- The child's teeth and gums should be brushed at least twice each day and especially before bed. Electric tooth brushes clean teeth better than manual ones.
- Take your child to a dentist every 6 months. Let the dentist know if your child thumb sucks or breathes through the mouth.
- Teach your child how to play safe and what to do if a tooth is broken or knocked out. If you act quickly, you can often save the tooth.
- When your child gets permanent teeth, he or she should begin flossing each evening before going to bed.
- When the child reaches the teens, braces or extractions may be needed to prevent long-term problems.