Pediatrician Dr. Sara Tamarin, who sees patients at The Everett Clinic Mill Creek, contributed:
Taking care of your baby’s teeth begins before a first tooth ever appears. There are many things you can do as a parent to help assure that your child will have a healthy and beautiful smile for years to come. Read the article, "Lifetime of dental health begins early."
It starts with you
A parent’s oral health has a major impact on his or her own child’s oral health. Children born to mothers with high rates of dental cavities are more likely to develop childhood cavities themselves. This occurs in part because the oral bacteria responsible for cavities are passed from parent to child through common daily contacts. To minimize bacteria, parents should be sure to maintain their own dental health with regular brushing, flossing and dental check-ups.
It’s always a good idea to avoid such practices as sharing utensils or cleaning the pacifier by putting it in your mouth.
Start cleaning your baby’s gums before teeth even appear. Once teeth do show, be sure to brush them each morning and evening.
Talk to your pediatrician about when to introduce fluoridated toothpaste. Once your child is 6 months old, your pediatrician may prescribe an oral fluoride supplement if your drinking water is not already fluoridated.
Bottles and bed
A major source of early onset cavities comes from putting a baby to bed with a bottle. Sugars in the formula, juice, or milk sit on the teeth throughout the night, allowing bacteria to prosper and eventually cause decay. By avoiding the practice from the start, everyone wins.
If your baby already has become accustomed to falling asleep with a bottle, talk to your pediatrician about how to help your baby learn to fall asleep without it.
Prolonged use of the bottle is also a common cause of tooth decay. In most cases, it’s best to discontinue bottle use completely by around 15 months of age. Introducing your baby to a sippy cup at six months is one way to ease this transition later down the road.
Your pediatrician will check your baby’s mouth and teeth regularly as part of routine well child visits. Your pediatrician will also talk to you about when your child should have his or her first check-up with a dentist. Working together, you, your pediatrician and your dentist can help give your child a head start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.