Baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth.  Baby teeth help your child chew and speak.  The also give the face its shape and hold space open for adult teeth.  That’s why it is smart to take good care of baby teeth.

This will explain the basics about baby teeth: how they develop, what you can do to keep them healthy, and how your dentist can help.  By taking small steps now, you can help your child have a healthy smile for years to come.

You Can Prevent Decay In Baby Teeth

Decay of baby (primary) teeth can affect adult teeth.  Decayed teeth can also be painful.  So it is important to take good care of baby teeth even though they fall out later.

As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, decay can start.  It happens when a baby’s teeth are in contact with liquids containing sugar for long periods.  These liquids include sweetened water, soda, and fruit juice.  Tooth decay can happen when parents or caregivers put a baby to bed with a bottle or use bottles to soothe a fussy baby.  Once a baby has begun to eat solid foods, she may be given a bottle of water at these times.

Here Are Some Tips To Help Protect Your Child’s Teeth From Decay

***Do not let your baby or toddler fall asleep with a bottle of sugary liquids

***If your baby needs comfort between regular feedings or bedtime, give him a clean pacifier.  Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey

***Do not put the pacifier in your mouth to clean it and then put it in the baby’s mouth.  You may pass on decay-causing bacteria to the baby.

***Do not allow children to frequently sip sugary liquids from bottles or training cups, since this can lead to decay.  Even watred-downsugary drinks, including juice, can damage teeth

How Teeth Develop

When babies are born, they already have 20 baby teeth hidden in their jaws.  A baby’s first teeth begin to appear (erupt) as early as six months after birth.  The front two upper and two lower teeth usually appear first.

Most children have a full set of 20 baby teeth by the time they are three years old.  As your child grows, the jaws also grow to make room for the adult teeth.  By the age of five or six, the adult teeth have begin to erupt.

When teething, some babies may have sore or tender gums.  To make your baby feel better, you can:

***gently rub his gums with a clean finger, a small spoon, or a wet gauze pad

***give him a clean teething ring to chew on

***talk to your dentist or physician if your child is still cranky and uncomfortable

Do not use gels or creams with local anesthetics (like benzocaine or lidocaine) to soothe sore gums in young children.  These products have caused serious reactions in a small number of children.  Local anesthetics can be found in such over-the-counter products as Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase, plus some prescription products.  Details are available on the Food and Drug Administration website at www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm306062.htm.

Holding Open Space For Permanent Teeth

Sometimes a baby tooth is lost before the adult (permanent) tooth beneath it is ready to erupt.  If a baby tooth is lost to early, nearby teeth can shift into the vacant space.  And when the adult tooth is ready to come into the space, there may not be enough room.  The new tooth may be unable to come in.  or it may erupt crooked or in the wrong place.

If your child loses a tooth early, the dentist may recommend a space maintainer.  This is a plastic or metal retainer that holds open the space left by the missing tooth.  The dentist will remove this retainer once the adult tooth begins to appear.

Keeping Your Child’s Teeth Healthy

Begin cleaning the baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth.  After every feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or wet washcloth.  This removes plaque and bits of food that can harm erupting teeth.

As soon as the first tooth appears, start brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day (morning and night).  Use a soft-bristled, child-sized toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.  For children under three years old, use no more than a smear or grain-of-rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.  To clean your child’s teeth and gums, you can sit with the child’s head in your lap.  Be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily.

Brush the teeth of children three to six with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.  Make sure your child spits out the toothpaste instead of swallowing it.

The American Dental Association recommends that you brush your child’s teeth until she is at least six years old.  If she can’t tie her shoes, she shouldn’t brush her teeth alone.  When your child is old enough to do the brushing, watch to make sure she is not “rushing the brushing.”

Plan your child’s first dental visit after the first tooth appears, but no later than the first birthday.  Consider it a “well-baby checkup” for your child’s teeth.  At this visit, the dentist can check for decay and other problems.  The dentist and team will also tell you how your child’s teeth are forming, how to take care of these teeth, and what foods are good for tooth development.  Make sure your child visits the dentist regularly to help keep teeth free of cavities.

For good dental and overall health, be sure your child eats a healthy diet with foods from the main food groups.  If your child needs a between-meal snack, choose healthy foods.  Save sweets for mealtime, when the mouth makes more saliva to help rinse out food particles.







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