During these sleepless nights and long days of caring for your adorable baby, it’s sometimes hard to remember that this cute little bundle will all-to-soon grow into an adult. We don’t think too much about it, but consider how much your baby’s jaw and teeth and gums change between birth and adulthood! We start with a mouth full of gums and begin sprouting teeth within a few months. A few years later, we lose those teeth, only to be replaced by a brand new set … not to mention how drastically our jaws change during these formative years. The growth is astounding. Our bodies are indeed miraculous.
Our job as parents is to do our best to insure that disease and traumatic accidents don’t interrupt the growth of our baby, including the teeth and jaw. Of course, accidents are called accidents for a reason and, no matter how healthy of a lifestyle we provide for our little ones, sometimes disease sneaks into our lives. But, those things aside, here are some steps you CAN take now to help your baby off to a life of stellar oral hygiene and dental health:
Don’t give your baby sugars. It’s bad for health overall and especially for oral health. The bacteria in our bodies love sugar. And, as you know from other posts on this blog, when the bacteria in the mouth multiply, a byproduct is acid. The acid erodes tooth enamel and that is followed by decay (cavities). No sugary snacks. No sugary drinks, in general. Especially be diligent to never, ever give *anything* (breastmilk, formula, juice, etc.) in a bottle immediately before or during sleep.
Minimize the opportunity for accidents at home
If only we could protect them from all the harms of this world … but we can’t. You can, however, childproof your home. Here’s an interesting oral health statistic for you: at least 50% of all accidents to teeth in children under 7 years old are due to children falling on home furniture. No, you don’t need to get rid of all of your furniture, but do pay attention to sharp edges and hard surfaces. The seat of a dining room chair is the “perfect” height for a small child to fall into and damage teeth. Consider making the main play area away from furniture. Once your child begins to play sports, invest in a mouthguard (ok, so it’s not really childproofing your home … but it’s still a good tip!)
Don’t wait to start oral hygiene
Give your baby a gift and practice oral hygiene now, no matter how small he or she is. If oral hygiene is just a normal part of life, your babies will grow up naturally taking care of their gums, teeth, and tongue and will get the payoff of a beautiful smile. Even before there are visible teeth, you can clean your baby’s gums with a clean, wet cloth after each feeding (brush after eating). Once there are some teeth, begin using a tiny, very soft brush after each meal. Don’t use more than the equivalent of a grain of rice of toothpaste.
Visit the Dentist as birthday gift
Turning 1 year old is an important milestone. Mark it by taking your baby to his first dental appointment! Again, this sets up a habit of taking care of teeth and it also provides the opportunity for the dentist to detect problems early.
Baby, baby, please brush your teeth
You may think that we already addressed this topic in the “Don’t wait to start oral hygiene” section, but you’re wrong. This encouragement is for YOU! You strive to be a good example for your children. Let that intention extend into involving them in your own oral hygiene from day one. Take your baby into the bathroom with you when you brush your teeth. Make a point of brushing after meals … and take your baby along, always explaining about the importance of cleaning your teeth after eating. Make a game of it – Smile in the mirror with your baby, have fun and enjoy these precious months!