How important is it for children as young as one or two years, or even six months of age to start practicing proper oral care and seeing a dentist regularly for check ups and cleanings? Child health care experts recommend that good oral care is critical from the beginning. Oral care is important even before a baby has teeth. Some factors impact future appearance and health of the teeth and gums even prior to birth. Tetracycline, for example, is an antibiotic that can cause tooth discoloration. Expectant mothers should not use Tetracycline in the last half of pregnancy.
At or around six months a baby’s teeth start to emerge. It still isn’t time to start brushing and flossing, but infants have special needs that all parents and caregivers need to know about. Understanding a baby’s special needs can help guard against problems and prevent future difficulties.
Guard against baby bottle decay. When a bottle is frequently exposed to liquids containing sugars, the sugary liquids pool. Liquids that contain sugars include formula, milk and fruit juices. A baby should not be allowed to fall asleep with a bottle of juice or milk in his mouth. Instead, at nap time, baby’s can have a bottle filled with water or a pacifier that has been recommended by your dentist.
Fluoride is another important and beneficial factor in your child’ teeth even before they begin to erupt. Fluoride strengthens the enamel of teeth as they are forming. Some water supplies do not contain any or enough fluoride. Talk to your dentist about fluoride drops that can be given to your baby daily. If you use bottled water for drinking or cooking be sure to tell your dentist. He may recommend a daily fluoride supplement for your baby.
A report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health shows that most children ages 1-2 have not yet started seeing a dentist. The National Poll on Children’s Health, conducted in May 2011, asked parents of children ages 1-5 about dental health care for young children. The findings indicated that only 23% of 1-year-olds had been to the dentist. Additionally, only 44% of 2-year-olds had been to the dentist.
“Dental problems such as early childhood cavities (cavities in the baby teeth) are the leading cause of chronic disease for young children,” says Sarah Clark, M.P.H., Associate Director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit at the University of Michigan. “Most dental problems can be prevented through good oral health care.”
Parents may not be aware of the recommendations. Therefore, pediatricians and health care providers are important partners in oral health and are encouraged to discuss oral health during well-child visits.
“Well-child visits are critical to making sure that parents understand their role in preventing dental problems, such as how to clean the child’s baby teeth and the importance of avoiding sugary beverages and bottles in the crib,” says Clark. “Well-child visits are also a key opportunity for a health professional to examine the child’s baby teeth and make sure that children with early signs of decay are strongly encouraged to see a dentist.”
Remember to take children, including toddlers, for regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Call and make an appointment for your child today!