The “Baby” Teeth
Your child’s first set of teeth, the “baby” or primary teeth, begin to erupt about six months after birth. Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are three years old. Strong, healthy primary teeth help your child chew food more easily, learn to speak clearly and smile. They also help give your child’s face its shape and form.
Infant Tooth Decay
Sometimes, parents and other caregivers don’t realize that a baby’s teeth are susceptible to tooth decay as soon as the teeth appear in the mouth. Decay occurs when a child’s teeth are exposed to sugary liquids for long periods of time. Among these are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened liquids. The good news is that baby tooth decay IS preventable!
Tips for Oral Care for Your Baby
Take these few simple steps to help ensure a healthy smile for you child.
1. Never allow your baby or toddler to fall asleep while sucking on a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids. If your baby needs a bottle for comfort between regular feedings or at bedtime, use only water in the bottle.
2. Begin oral care early. Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after each feeding. Begin brushing your baby’s teeth with a little water as soon as the first tooth appears. Ask your doctor before starting to use toothpaste if your child is younger than age two.
3. Schedule your child’s first visit to the dentist by the first birthday. In many instances, the first dental visit is a “well-baby check-up” for the teeth. By starting visits at an early age, you will help your child build a lifetime of good dental habits.
4. Check your child's teeth regularly. As soon as the first tooth comes in, lift the baby’s lips and regularly check the teeth for any changes. If you see white or stained areas on the teeth, take your child to the dentist.
5. Share information about preventing baby tooth decay with others who may be caring for your child. Preventing baby tooth decay is a team effort!