How to look after your baby's teeth
How do I look after my baby's teeth?
So you’ve just gone through teething (or you’re about to) and now your baby has a brand new tooth that needs to be looked after. You may think that your baby is too young for any sort of dental care routine but that couldn’t be further from the truth!
From the moment that first, shiny tooth pops its head out into the open, it is vulnerable to the world. This is the first set of teeth (often called milk teeth) that your baby will have before their adult teeth start coming in at around the age of 6 or 7. Until that time, your baby will need to rely on their milk teeth so it is very important that you begin to care for them as early as possible, beginning with a trip to the dentist.
Brushing your child's teeth
The best way to look after your baby’s teeth is to get into the habit of brushing them, even if there is only one! For babies up to the age of three, use a tiny smear of toothpaste, and for children between the ages of 3 and 6, use a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush.
Don’t be too concerned if you can’t brush their teeth much at first. The most important thing is to get into the habit of brushing so your baby knows that it’s a part of their daily routine. As you get used to brushing your baby’s teeth, do it twice a day: once in the morning, and once just before bed. Avoid giving your child anything other than water to drink after you’ve brushed their teeth at bedtime.
The easiest way to brush baby’s teeth is to sit them on your knee and rest their head against your chest. Brush their teeth in little circles, making sure you reach all surfaces before asking your child to spit out the toothpaste. If your baby only has a few teeth, you may find it easier to wrap a damp cloth or gauze around your finger with a tiny amount of toothpaste and rub it over their teeth.
As your child gets older, it may be tempting to let them brush their own teeth unassisted. Though it is important to teach your child to brush independently, it is a good idea to continue helping them brush their teeth till they’re around seven years old and can do it well enough on their own.
Cut down on sugar
Sugar is very bad for baby’s teeth. Research shows that children who eat sugary foods every day have a much higher risk of tooth decay compared to kids who eat sweets only occasionally.
Lollipops and sugary drinks in baby bottles are especially damaging because they are in contact with your baby’s teeth for long periods of time and are more likely to cause decay. It is best to limit sweets as much as possible, since the risk of developing tooth decay increases as your child eats more sugar, more frequently. Consider the following tips to reduce the amount of time your child’s teeth are in contact with sugar:
- Avoid getting your child used to sugar. As you wean your baby, encourage them to eat savoury food and try to limit pre-prepared baby foods that contain sugar.
- Don’t give your baby a dummy that has been dipped in a sugary drink
- The UK Government advises parents to give their children sugar-free medicines wherever possible. Try to avoid pain relief medications that contain sugar (except where necessary).
- Avoid giving fruit juice outside of mealtimes and brush your child’s teeth afterwards.
- Avoid giving your child sweets as a treat. Instead, reward your child with non-food items(such as stickers, colouring pencils, or little toys).
- Only give your child water during the night; avoid sugary drinks or milk (unless they have not been weaned yet).
Sugar can be tricky to identify in different foods since they go by many different names. Some common names for sugar on ingredient lists include fructose, sucrose, dextrose, glucose, maltose, and hydrolysed starch. You may think that natural sources of sugar are ok but these types of sugars are just as likely to cause tooth decay; things like brown sugar, muscovado, invert sugar, raw sugar, honey, cane sugar, and concentrated fruit juices can all cause tooth decay.
When should I take my baby to see a dentist?
The British Dental Association advises that the earlier parents begin taking their baby to the dentist, the better. As a good rule of thumb, you should start considering a dentist visit for your little one as soon as their teeth start to come out. Your dentist will be able to make sure that your baby’s teeth are all coming out as expected, and give you valuable advice on how to keep your baby’s teeth healthy and strong.