Keeping Your Baby’s Smile Healthy Throughout the Year

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The beginning of 2014 didn’t just mark a fresh start for you, it was one for your youngster as well. As a number of studies have indicated, taking care of teeth and gums starts at a young age. The health of primary (baby) teeth often dictates the future health of adult teeth. That means for your little bundle of joy, it’s best to know what to do to keep them nothing but smiles.

Cleanings at home
Many parents don’t realize that oral hygiene for babies starts as soon as they’re born. Even if they don’t have teeth yet, parents should use a clean, damp washcloth to wipe their gums clean after each feeding. Once their teeth appear, toddlers should be taught to hold a toothbrush, but brush for them twice a day with water – no toothpaste is needed. Keep an eye out for long-lasting bad breath, as it could signal an underlying condition.

Visit the dentist by age 1
Similar to the daily cleanings, a staggering 97 percent of parents were unaware that infants should visit a dentist during their first year of life, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPA). Bring your child to the dental office when he or she is between 3 and 9 months, which is typically when the first tooth erupts. If you want to set a date, AAPA recommends that a child should have their first appointment within six months of developing their first tooth.

This is important for several reasons. First, it helps familiarize your child with the dentist and dental office environment. It can also be helpful for a parent to learn new tips. Although you’ve been brushing and flossing your entire life, keeping your infant’s mouth clean demands a different set of skills. Don’t hesitate to ask your dentist to give you a demonstration. Practicing good oral health for kids starts with parents. Lastly, it kickstarts the habit of visiting the dentist every six months.

Nutrition
What you feed your baby can be just as crucial as dental visits. It’s important not to send children to bed with a bottle of juice or milk. Both beverages contain sugar that can wear away teeth when left for long periods of time, such as during nap times or overnight. Plus, you don’t want to add to their morning breath!

Say no to sharing
Cavities can be contagious! Well, sort of. It may come as a surprise, but mothers should avoid sharing utensils, food or toothbrushes with their toddlers, since splitting anything that goes in the mouth can transfer cavity-causing bacteria. Even kissing your child on the lips may spread Streptococcus mutans, which is the bad bacteria and leading culprit for cavities.

“The main thing to know is that tooth decay is a bacterial infection and you can spread it from one person to another during the window of infectivity, which is during infancy and especially during the time of tooth eruption,” Dr. Jane Soxman, a pediatric dentist from Allison Park, Pa., told NBC News. “That’s when the teeth are most vulnerable. It’s as if you had a bad cold and were kissing your child, you would spread the cold virus.”

That means, no “cutting grapes in half” with your own teeth or brushing your teeth with same brush as your child’s. The bottom line: Don’t share saliva.

Boost the oral health for kids as soon as possible, and their day-long smiles will be the reward!

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