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Dental care – The early years

submitted by Dr. Michael Spadafora, D.D.S., Bucks County Dental Design

From the moment a child is born most parents have an overwhelming desire to care for and protect that child.

Feeding and nurturing the baby is of the highest concern, as well as making sure that the baby’s health is protected. This should include his oral health.

Initially, oral health care for an infant consists of wrapping a clean, moistened with water, soft washcloth around your finger and wiping the baby’s gums.

While some dentists recommend doing this each time the baby eats, certainly a worthy goal would be to do it a couple times a day.

When the primary teeth begin to erupt through the gums (usually around four to six months) your job changes a little.

Clean the infant’s teeth with a moistened soft bristle baby toothbrush.  Toothpaste isn’t needed or recommended.

Be aware that dental decay is an infectious transmittable disease, and you should avoid passing your germs to your child (for example, sharing utensils, testing the bottle temperature with your mouth).

Fluoride is an important part of oral care.

If your drinking water is not fluoridated be sure to speak to your dentist or pediatrician about fluoride supplements.

The use of bottles and pacifiers as an infant becomes a toddler should be carefully monitored by the parents.

Most people know about the issues with putting the baby to bed with a bottle – the liquid can stay in the baby’s mouth, turn into sugar, and cause tooth decay.

An issue less known is that babies who sleep with a pacifier can have future orthodontic problems.

The sucking can contract the jaw and arch, causing problems for future teeth.

By the age of three all primary teeth should be in and the child should be seen by a dentist.

Although some dentists suggest a dental appointment before the child turns one, age three seems to be a good age for a gentle first dental appointment.

This first appointment should set the stage for a lifelong relationship with the dental team and a lifetime of good oral health.