Q. At what age should my child have their first dental visit?
“First visit by first birthday” is the rule. Oral health is integral to general health. To prevent problems early on, your child should see a pediatric dentist between 6 and 12 months of age.
Q. What should I use to clean my baby’s teeth?
A toothbrush will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay. Any soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants, should be used twice a day, most importantly at bedtime.
Q. What is baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD)?
BBTD (previously called “nursing bottle caries”) is now known as early childhood caries. It is a pattern of rapid decay often associated with prolonged nursing, bottle feeding, or frequent use of no-spill training cups containing milk or juice. Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious problems. Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth, giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. Follow these tips to help prevent early childhood caries:
- Avoid putting infants to bed with a bottle containing fermentable carbohydrates (i.e., milk, formula, juices). If your child will not fall asleep without the bottle and usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle’s contents with water over a period of 2 to 3 weeks.
- Ad lib breastfeeding should be avoided after the first baby tooth erupts.
- Encourage drinking from a cup by infant’s first birthday. Infants should be weaned from the bottle by 12 to 14 months of age.
- Between-meal snacks and excessive exposures to food, juice, or other liquids containing sugars should be avoided.
- After each feeding, wipe baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad (if they cannot be brushed) to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap, or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you lift the lip and clean the surfaces of the teeth and gums.
Q. What about sippy cups?
Sippy cups should be used as a training tool in the transition from the bottle to a cup and are recommended to be discontinued by the first birthday. If your child uses a sippy cup throughout the day, fill it with water only (except at mealtimes). By filling the sippy cup with liquids that contain sugar (including milk, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.) and allowing a child to drink from it throughout the day, it gives the cavity-causing bacteria an unlimited supply of nutrients with which to produce acid and destroy the enamel on your child’s teeth.
Q. How can I help my baby through teething?
Sore gums when teeth erupt are a normal part of the eruption process. The discomfort may be eased with teething biscuits, toast, or cool teething rings.