Everyone knows dental care is important for children and adults, but what about baby teeth? According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, primary, or “baby,” teeth are important for many reasons. They help children speak clearly and chew naturally and also aid in forming a path those permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.

From the moment your child is born, it’s essential to take care of those little pearly whites. Here are some top dental care tips for your infant and toddler.

Take Care of Your Maternal Health

Baby teeth start to form during pregnancy. By the time the baby is born, a complete set of primary teeth has formed underneath the baby’s gums. Therefore it’s crucial to make sure oral health remains a priority while pregnant. Some of the most common oral health issues that many pregnant women may see are: Hormones: During pregnancy, a woman’s body produces many hormones to accommodate the life growing inside. These hormones can affect the health of her teeth and gums, making women more prone to periodontal (gum) disease and cavities.

Change in Eating Habits: It’s common for women to experience food cravings when pregnant, particularly for junk food. Eating more sugary foods can increase the risk of cavities.

Morning Sickness: Frequent morning sickness and vomiting cause stomach acid to make its way into the mouth. This excess acid can weaken tooth enamel, putting expectant moms at a greater risk for cavities and tooth decay.

Difficulties With Brushing and Flossing: Many pregnant women report having tender gums, which can make brushing and flossing harder to do and cause nausea.

Caring for Your Baby’s Gums

To prevent cavities, you should take care of your baby’s gums before tooth eruption, which usually occurs between six and twelve months of age. This helps prevent a buildup of sugars from breastmilk or formula and gets them accustomed to having their mouth cleaned. Every day, use a clean, soft washcloth and gently wipe their mouth and gums.

Practice Teething Care

Teething, also known as primary tooth eruption, is when your baby’s first set of teeth breaks through their gums. Teething usually begins around six months of age. However, it’s entirely normal for teething to start at any time between three to 12 months of age. By the time they are three years old, most babies will have all their baby teeth.

As soon as teeth become visible in the mouth, brush the teeth twice a day with a small, soft bristle toothbrush that contains a pea-sized smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste. Make sure to encourage your baby to spit out the toothpaste.

Every baby experiences teething differently. Some babies have no symptoms, while others seem to go through a lot of pain. If your baby is having a difficult time during teething, there are some things you can try to help ease their discomfort and pain.

  • Give them something to chew on, like a firm rubber teething ring or a cold washcloth that you’ve chilled in the refrigerator (not the freezer). Chewing helps by relieving the pressure of the new teeth pressing up.
  • You can gently rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a wet gauze pad.
  • If your child is eating solids, offer chilled foods, like applesauce, pureed peaches, or yogurt.
  • Make sure to give lots of extra snuggles and kisses to help reassure and distract them.

Promote Healthy and Nutritional Habits

As your baby gets older, their diet will change – most little ones begin to eat solid foods at around six months of age. When they hit this milestone, it’s important make good nutritional decisions by doing the following:

Provide Healthy Foods: Once your child is old enough to eat, supply them with healthy snacks. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are especially important.

Avoid Sticky Foods and Unhealthy Snacks: Don’t give your baby candy, soda, or juice in between meals. Instead, give your baby healthy snacks like cheese, yogurt, or fruit.

Limit Juice: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to give juice to children under 12 months. Kids between 12 and 36 months should not have more than four fluid ounces of liquid.

Switch to Cups: When your child is about 12 months old, you should transition from bottles to cups. Consistent bottle-feeding can encourage tooth decay, especially if you’re filling bottles with sugary drinks like juice.

While taking care of your kid’s oral health, don’t forget about your own. Bacteria can spread through shared utensils, so keep your teeth in tip-top shape as well.

Schedule a Dental Visit With a Family Dentist

While you can take steps to take care of your child’s dental care at home, it’s always helpful to have a professional look things over. According to the American Dental Association, you should schedule a dental appointment within six months after their first tooth appears (or by their first birthday).

It’s normal to be nervous about seeing a dentist for the first time. At JR Dental, we do our best to keep your child comfortable and happy during the first appointment. Your baby’s smile is our top priority!

Call us at (904) 786-5850 to schedule an appointment today.