Q: How can I avoid baby bottle cavities?
A: Once your baby’s teeth begin to appear, you need to take extra care that these new teeth do not develop cavities. One common way a baby can develop cavities is called “bottle rot,” which is caused by extended nursing on milk, formula or juices, especially at bedtime or naptime. You should not use a feeding bottle as a pacifier. If you must give your baby a bottle at bedtime or naptime, make sure it contains plain water. You should not give a baby a pacifier that has been dipped in honey or sugar.
Q: How do I care for my baby’s gums?
A: Good dental health to avoid gum disease should begin at birth. After each feeding, gently wipe the baby’s gums with a soft, damp washcloth or gauze pad.
Q: What should I know about teething?
The discomfort of teeth coming into the mouth can cause your baby to become irritable. You can ease some of the discomfort by lightly rubbing the baby’s gums with a clean finger or a wet cloth. A cool teething ring can also help to soothe your baby’s tender gums. When the first teeth appear, begin using a children’s soft-bristle toothbrush to clean them on a daily basis. Giving your baby regular oral cleanings after each meal instills good dental health habits early in life.
Q: When will my baby’s teeth come in?
A: Teeth begin forming in your baby even before birth. Here is when you can expect to begin seeing them:
• Central incisor (front two upper and bottom teeth): 6-12 months
• Lateral incisor(the two teeth flanking the upper and bottom front two teeth): 9-16 months
• Canines (eye teeth): 16-23 months
• First molars (upper and bottom back teeth): 13-19 months
• Second molars (upper and bottom back teeth): 22-33 months All 20 primary teeth — also called baby teeth — are present in the jawbones at birth. The lower two front teeth are usually the first to erupt. This most often occurs somewhere around 6 months after birth. Do not be concerned if your baby is a little late. The numbers here are only an average. By age 3, all 20 primary teeth should be present.
Q: What is the relationship between enamel, fluoride and good dental health?
A: Enamel, the hardest substance in the body, is the outermost layer of the tooth and protects the tooth from decay and cavities. Fluoride, a naturally occurring substance, can strengthen tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. Some sources of fluoride that help prevent cavities are fluoridated drinking water, fluoride-containing toothpastes and fluoride mouth rinses. Your dentist or physician may recommend or prescribe additional fluoride treatments for your child’s dental health. Be sure to follow his/her instructions. Too much fluoride can change the structure of tooth enamel, resulting in discoloration.
Q: How do I take the fear out of the first dental visit?
A: Your child should visit the dentist by age 1. You can make the first visit to the dentist enjoyable and positive. Before the visit, tell your child that someone will look at his or her mouth and teeth. Allow the dentist and other members of the dental staff to introduce other dental health procedures. Your dentist will examine your child’s mouth for early signs of cavities, gum disease or other dental health problems. The dentist will also tell you many of the things you’ll need to know about helping your child grow up free of cavities.
Q: What role does nutrition play in healthy dental development?
A: Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Many snacks that children eat can lead to the formation of cavities. Try to limit your child’s snacks. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, yogurt and cheese.