Oral hygiene is important for everyone, but it is especially important for infants and young children who do not know how to take care of their teeth and mouths themselves. As a parent, you are sure to want your children to have good oral health, and the key to that starts at a young age. Use the following tips to prevent tooth decay and keep your child's teeth healthy:
Beware of "Baby Bottle Decay"
Many babies find sucking comforting and relaxing, so some parents believe that giving a bottle of milk or juice at bedtime will help an infant fall asleep. While this may be true, letting a baby fall asleep with a bottle of milk or juice can wreak havoc on the child's teeth. When a baby falls asleep drinking milk or any other sugary substance, liquid is often left in the mouth, and then pools around the teeth thus feeding the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Over time, the damage of letting your baby go to sleep with a bottle can be severe, and may require extensive dental work to repair. The best option is to never start the habit of letting a baby go to sleep with a bottle, but if you already have a child who is used to falling asleep with a bottle try replacing the milk or juice with plain water.
Begin Cleaning Teeth and Gums Early
You don't have to wait for your child's first tooth to appear to start a good oral hygiene routine. In fact, you can begin cleaning an infant's gums from birth. Just use a clean wet cloth or a piece of gauze to wipe the gums after each feeding. Doing this removes bacteria from the gums, and will also make your child comfortable when the time comes for you to begin brushing his or her teeth.
Give Water After Meals
When your child becomes old enough to begin eating table foods, it is a good idea to provide water to drink after each snack or meal. Water does a good job of washing food residue off teeth, which can help prevent bacteria from building up between the times that you brush your child's teeth.
Schedule Regular Dental Appointments
Even with a good home dental care regime, it is still very important for a child to see a dentist on a regular basis. The American Dental Association recommends that children have their first dental exam by the time they reach their first birthday. After the initial visit, your child's dentist will let you know when you should schedule your child's next visit.