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The Mountaineer Online

Good dental care starts early: Help ensure your child starts off on the right foot

Capt. Michael Silva

Stone Dental Clinic

Following is the first in a three-part series about children’s dental care.

You can help prevent your baby from getting cavities or developing what is called baby bottle tooth decay, or early childhood caries, by beginning an oral hygiene routine within the first few days after birth.
Start by cleaning your baby’s mouth by wiping the gums with a clean gauze pad. This helps removes plaque that can harm erupting teeth. Because children gain their oral bacteria from their caretaker (parent, family members, etc.) and because these bacteria are the source of dental cavities, it is important to refrain from placing items in an adult’s mouth and then directly into the child’s mouth.
During the onset of your child's teeth, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and water. For bottle feedings, place only formula, milk or breast milk and avoid sugary beverages, such as juice or soda.
Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottle before going to bed. If a child is put to bed with a bottle, it should only contain water. This will minimize the sugars sitting in the child’s mouth during the nap and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Start early
Your child’s baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear, which is typically around age 6 months. Most often, decay occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth also may be affected. In some cases, infants and toddlers experience decay so severe that their teeth cannot be saved and need to be removed.
The good news is that tooth decay is preventable. Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are 3 years old. As your child grows, his or her jaws also grow, making room for the permanent teeth.

Cleaning your child’s teeth
wBegin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur.
wWhen your child’s teeth begin to come in, brush them gently with a child-size, soft-bristled toothbrush and water. A baby’s front four teeth usually push through the gums at about 6 months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until 12 or 14 months.
wFor children older than 2, brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure they spit out the toothpaste. (Ask your child's dentist or physician if you are considering using fluoride toothpaste before age 2.)
wUntil you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child's teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
wWhen your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing their teeth daily.

Teething is one of the first rituals of life. As their teeth erupt, some babies may become fussy, sleepless and irritable, lose their appetite or drool more than usual. Diarrhea, rashes and a fever are not normal symptoms for a teething baby. If your infant has a fever or diarrhea while teething or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, call your physician.

See the next issue of The Mountaineer for the second
part in the series.

The Mountaineer



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