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Baby Teeth 101: Baby Teeth Are Important

Jun 10, 2013

Baby teeth can be a funny thing. That first tooth may erupt anywhere between the ages of 3 to 9 months.  After several months of sleepless nights, wearing baby spit-up on your best clothes and learning how to change a diaper with your eyes closed and on a burp’s notice, what do you do then? 

Caring for Baby Teeth
Photo source: PRLog.org

I remind parents that this is a very important time,” says Dr. Beverly Largent, a pediatric dentist in Paducah, Kentucky. “This baby is 1 year old or younger. They have new teeth. You are starting from the very beginning. And you have all the power in the world to keep your child from ever having a cavity.”

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends a dental appointment for infants no later than their first birthday. Surprisingly, only 3% of parents surveyed by the AAPD knew of this recommendation.  As previously reported in Dental Wire, more than 40% of kids have tooth cavities by kindergarten age.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that children are five times more likely to have a cavity than asthma and are seven times more likely to have a cavity than hay fever.

“As soon as the tooth erupts, bacteria start developing plaque,” says Dr. Art Nowak, a well known pediatric dentist and Executive Director, Emeritus of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.  “Whether it’s from the mother’s milk or formula, activity starts inside that plaque. At five, six or seven months, things are starting to happen.”

The good news is that the first visit is almost always painless for the baby and its parents. During that initial visit a dentist often instructs parents on how to clean their baby’s teeth (or tooth) with gauze. This gets the baby used to a parent checking their mouth for erupting teeth and helps the parent stay vigilant for potential issues requiring a dental visit.  Pediatricians also often advise parents on avoiding pitfalls like bedtime bottles and nighttime sippy cups filled with milk and juice.

Other dental tips for parents:

Find a Dentist Selecting a pediatric dentist is a huge step in ensuring that your child’s oral health and dental hygiene practices get off to a good start.  The AAPD estimates that costs are 40% lower in the first five years for children visiting the dentist before age 1.

Avoid Sugary Drinks Fruit juices once thought healthy are loaded with sugar. Because children’s teeth are porous, sweet drinks quickly damage their tooth enamel.  Switch children to water or low-fat milk for nighttime drinks.

Teach Your Child Children need to know that everyday foods can help or harm dental health. For example, apples and pears are excellent tooth polishers. Other foods like sour candies and sodas damage tooth enamel and jeopardize baby teeth.  Dr. Largent says that “baby teeth” need to remain in place well beyond infancy and the toddler years. “They are important to help your child look good, eat well and speak well,” she said.

Be a Good Example Good habits are acquired early, and if kids see their parents doing what they tell their children to do, it reinforces good oral hygiene habits. Everyone in the family should brush twice daily, floss regularly and visit the dentist twice a year.

Sources: CNN.com; School of Dentistry, University of Washington; Care2.com


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