Not 'just' baby teethThe idea that “they’re only baby teeth” leaves an impression that they are unimportant. This is not true; baby teeth need as much attention as permanent teeth.
By: By Amy Reineke, Public Health educator, Alexandria Echo Press
The idea that “they’re only baby teeth” leaves an impression that they are unimportant. This is not true; baby teeth need as much attention as permanent teeth.
A smile is a baby's way of reaching out to people. Even toothless, a baby's smile has the ability to make people feel good. Something that precious needs care and attention right from day one.
Taking good care of baby teeth is important. Baby teeth remain in a child’s mouth until about age 10 or 12. Baby teeth help children chew food and speak clearly. Cavities in baby teeth can cause pain and discomfort. Baby teeth also hold space so permanent teeth can grow in straight.
If you start children off with good dental habits, they will find it easier to keep those good habits forever.
Parents should start caring for their child's gums and teeth at birth. A good routine to get into is after each feeding gently wipe the baby's gums with a soft, wet cloth. When you see their baby teeth appear, start cleaning them with a soft, child-sized toothbrush twice a day.
Fluoride helps make teeth strong and prevents tooth decay. If the water where you live does not have enough fluoride, your doctor may prescribe daily fluoride supplements (fluoride drops or pills).
Babies who go to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice are more likely to get tooth decay. Because the sugar in formula, milk or juice stays in contact with the teeth for a long time during the night, the teeth can decay quickly.
To avoid baby-bottle tooth decay:
• Put your child to bed with a bottle of plain water, not milk or juice.
• Stop nursing when your child is asleep or has stopped sucking on the bottle.
• Try not to let your child walk around using a bottle of milk or juice as a pacifier.
• Start to teach your child to drink from a cup at about 6 months of age. Plan to stop using a bottle by 12 to 14 months at the latest.
• Don’t dip your child’s pacifier in honey or sugar.
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. If your child wants a snack between meals, offer fruits or vegetables. Sweets, starchy foods (crackers) and sticky foods stay in the mouth longer – therefore creating a risk for tooth decay.
The American Dental Association recommends you take your child for a first dental visit within six months of the first baby tooth and by no later than the first birthday. This gives the dentist a chance to look for early tooth problems and to talk to you about how to care for your baby's teeth.
Outreach Dental Clinics are periodically offered in Douglas County. They are designed to provide dental services to children between ages 2 and 12. Dental health staff will be available to provide all dental services for children covered by Minnesota Health Care Programs and Minnesota Medical Assistance. Call 1-800-663-6713 for more information.