The first teeth usually appear around 6 months, but some babies may start teething as early as 3 months.
Even natural sugars in breast milk or formula can initiate the process of tooth decay, and cavities can occur as soon as babies’ first teeth emerge. Although the first teeth will fall out after a while, the health of the first teeth is very important for the health of the permanent teeth. Research shows that nutritional and dental hygiene habits during childhood reduce the risk of tooth decay as we age.
Steps recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to prevent cavities in babies and young children;
- No bottles in bed. Putting your child to sleep with a bottle causes the sugars in breast milk or formula to remain on the teeth, which paves the way for tooth decay.
- Handle spoons and cups with care. Bacteria that cause tooth decay can easily pass from mouth to mouth. Therefore, do not give your child the spoons or cups you use yourself.
- Cleanse your child’s mouth after each meal. It’s important to get into a healthy care routine before your child’s first teeth appear. Wipe the gums with a clean, damp cloth after each meal. When their first teeth appear, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and apply fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) on them. Around your child’s first birthday, establish a healthy routine by brushing his teeth twice a day for 2 minutes each time.
- Introduce a cup around your child’s first birthday. Teaching children to drink from a glass can help prevent tooth decay.
- Avoid using bottles to soothe your child. When little ones get fussy, it’s tempting to offer them a little formula or milk, but this exposes little teeth to sugars for long periods. Use a regular pacifier to calm your child, but be sure not to dip it in honey or any other sweetener.
- Do not give sugary drinks to your child. Fruit juice and sugary drinks are not good for children’s teeth. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend fruit juice for babies younger than 12 months.
- Limit sticky fruit and treats. Some foods can stick to teeth and feed bad bacteria. Sticky foods that encourage tooth decay include raisins and other dried fruits, gummy candies, candies, fruit roll-ups, and honey or molasses snack bars. Try to limit these foods in your child’s diet and have children brush their teeth or rinse with plain water after eating them.
- Make water the family drink of choice. Regular water, which usually contains fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel, is the healthiest drink for your child’s teeth. Drinking plenty of water cleans your child’s mouth and helps maintain saliva flow, which also flushes out decay-causing bacteria.
- Learn more about fluoride. Fluoride is an important protector against tooth decay. The required fluoride is obtained from water and fluoride toothpaste. Your pediatric dentist may also apply fluoride varnish to your child’s teeth.
When should I take my child to the dentist?
When your baby’s first tooth appears, it’s time to schedule their first dental visit.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2023). Why It’s Important to Take Care of Baby Teeth. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/teething-tooth-care/Pages/How-to-Prevent-Tooth-Decay-in-Your-Baby.aspx