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ORAL HEALTHCARE 
FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS

Reasons and Benefits of Seeing a Dentist Ways to Prevent Early Cavities
Baby's First Dental Visit
     All babies need to see their dentist within 6 months after the eruption of the first baby tooth or no later than 12 months of age. 

     Benefits of seeing a dentist by the age of 12 months:

bulletTo determine your child's risk for cavities
bulletPerform a screening examination of their mouth for abnormalities
bulletAssess fluoride needs
bulletDetermine risk of being exposed to S. Mutans which cause cavities
bulletEvaluate diet and snacking
bulletEvaluate tooth eruption and potential orthodontic problems
bulletProvide guidance for injury prevention
bulletShow proper care of your child's teeth
bulletPrevent early tooth loss

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Young children are examined while resting in their mouth's lap
Resting in Mom's lap

     Your Infants first Dental Visit will include:

  1. Record  medical and dental history which covers the before birth, at birth and after birth periods.
  2. Thorough oral exam
  3. Assess babies risk of developing cavities
  4. Determine a prevention and reevaluation plan
  5. Discuss and provide guidance regarding:
bulletDental and oral development
bulletFluoride status
bulletOral habits
bulletInjury prevention
bulletCare of teeth
bulletEffects of diet on teeth

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Ways to Help Prevent Early Childhood Cavities:

Baby bottle decay-When the child is put to bed with a bottle the liquid pools on the upper teeth while the tongue relaxs and covers and thus  protects the lower teeth from decay and destruction

When your child is put to bed with a bottle, the liquid pools on their upper teeth, while the tongue relaxes
and covers the lower teeth which protects these teeth from a high degree of decay and destruction.

 

  1. Fluoride to protect their teeth.  If fluoride is not in your drinking water than ask for vitamin drops with fluoride.  Fluoride varnish is an excellent preventive procedure that is easy to apply at 12 months or older with less fluoride ingestion than use of fluoride gels.

  2It is important that you, the parent, check and clean your baby's teeth:

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To clean their teeth place them in a comfortable position that will allow you to easily access their mouth. Try the following ways:
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Sit on a sofa with your child's head in your lap.

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Lay them on the floor or on a dressing table.

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Be sure you can see into their mouth easily. 

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Clean their mouth soon after birth with a wet soft cloth, gauze pad or soft baby toothbrush and water to remove bacterial plaque.

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Remember to continue to clean and massage their gums in all the other areas that remain toothless.

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Floss their teeth as soon as the teeth begin to touch. 

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Rinse their teeth with water after eating when it is not possible to brush and floss.

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Always brush your child's teeth before they go to bed.

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Ask your dentist the age he recommends that you child can begin using toothpaste (ADA recommends using it after the age of two).  When you use a toothbrush with toothpaste make sure the toothpaste has fluoride in it and use only a pea size amount of toothpaste.  After brushing simply spit the toothpaste out, DO NOT RINSE after brushing, in order to maximize the beneficial effects of fluoride.

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It is important that you brush their teeth until the age of 7 to 9 
once a day because you are able to clean their teeth better than your child.  During this period it is recommended that you brush their teeth at night  and then they can brush their teeth in the morning and other times of the day.

  3.  Examine their teeth monthly by lifting a child's lip to look for decay on the outside and inside surfaces of the four upper front teeth.  Check your child's teeth monthly for any changes.  If you see a white spot lesion, this could be the immediate sign of a possible cavity.  These lesions generally appear on the smooth surfaces of teeth and/or close to the gum line where plaque tends to collect and should be considered equivalent to a cavity.  Also pre-cavity lesions in pits and grooves of the teeth may appear as brown or black staining that cannot be removed with a toothbrush.    The presence of visible plaque on baby teeth is a good predictor of future risk towards cavities. If you see these signs on your child's tooth/teeth take them to a dentist.

Check pits and grooves on crown of teeth for black or brown staining that can not be removed by a brushing                                              white spot lesion at gum line of tooth
Pit and grooves in crown of tooth              White spot lesion at gum line of tooth

  4.  Feed them healthy food by following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

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Diets that contain sugary foods, soft drinks, and fruit juices are most likely to promote cavities.

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Select foods from the food groups of fruits, vegetables, meat, grains and/or dairy.  

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Try to limit between meal snacks.  When they do snack try  choosing foods low in sugar like cheese, nuts or vegetables. Remember the more often your child snacks on food containing sugar and starches the greater the chance for tooth decay.  

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Limit the length of time the teeth are exposed to sticky foods.

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Don't add sugar to your baby's food to make it taste better.

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Provide drinks that are high in sugar or acid only with meals.  Drinks high in sugar content or acid should not be given in a bottle or sippy cup  at bedtime.  Feeding your baby high sugar and/or high acidic drinks in a bottle or sippy cup at bedtime or to allow them to continuously suck on a sippy cup will cause their teeth's enamel to break down or demineralize.

   5 Never let your baby go to sleep with a bottle of anything except water.   Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey. Learn more on how to prevent: baby bottle tooth decay.

   6. Take your baby to the dentist by age one.  Schedule appointments early in the day, but avoid naptime.  When bringing the child to the dentist for the first time, it's okay to bring a comfort item such as a blanket or favorite toy. Make the experience positive for the child and try not to instill your own fears into the child.

  7.  Avoid chewable vitamins or any other medications that list sugar as the first ingredient.  If your child has reduced saliva flow from medication, gastric reflex or other special health needs,  please see you child's doctor and dentist.  

  8.  Change your child's toothbrush every two months and after the child has been sick.

  9.  If a child is sick, toothpaste should be placed on their toothbrush via a cotton swab or a clean finger to avoid contaminating the toothpaste tube.

Gently brush your baby's teeth everyday for good dental health
Toothbrushing should begin with the eruption of the first tooth

10.  Since the bacteria that causes decay is passed from the mother to her child it is highly recommended to:

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Brush their own teeth 2x day with fluoridated toothpaste for 2-5 minutes.

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Floss daily.

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Have teeth professionally cleaning 2x year.

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Receive fluoride treatment.

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Have cavities treated.

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Receive sealants to prevent decay.

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Use an antimicrobial mouthrinse daily.

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Picture courtesy of Dentalcare.

February 06, 2008

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PLEASE NOTE: The information contained herein is intended for educational purposes only.  It is not intended and should not be construed as the delivery of dental/medical care and is not a substitute for personal hands on dental/medical attention, diagnosis or treatment.  Persons requiring diagnosis, treatment, or with specific questions are urged to contact your family dental/health care provider for appropriate care.
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