Since babies are not born with teeth, laying the foundation for good oral health isn’t always top of mind for the busy parents of a newborn. But, from the womb through a baby’s first birthday, much can be accomplished to help ensure the long-term health of a child’s smile.
Teeth begin to form between the third and sixth month of pregnancy. Inadequate nutrition on the part of a pregnant woman can result in poorly formed tooth enamel that makes teeth weaker, softer and more prone to developing cavities once they erupt. To aid in the development of strong, healthy teeth, it is essential for pregnant women to eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins A, C and D, protein, calcium and phosphorous.
Once a child is born, parents can begin taking care of the baby’s gums by gently wiping them each day with a soft washcloth. There is no need for toothpaste yet. Simply moisten the cloth or a piece of gauze, wrap it around the index finger and gently rub over the gums. Generally round six months of age the first tooth will appear. At that time, a soft bristle baby tooth brush or finger toothbrush, along with a tiny dab of toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice, can be used twice daily to brush the teeth, gums and tongue. It is also important to remember that caregivers can transfer cavity-causing germs to their baby by sharing utensils, blowing on food and cleaning a pacifier with their mouths.
It is recommended that a child visits the dentist within six months of the first tooth erupting or by age one. During the first dental appointment the dentist will examine the child’s mouth, check growth and development, and educate the parent on topics ranging from thumb sucking to baby bottle tooth decay to proper brushing techniques. It also serves as a means to enable the child to become comfortable with visiting the dentist regularly.
To learn more, visit the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy website at http://www.mouthhealty.org.