Born to Smile
There is nothing more heartwarming than a baby’s smile. The Indiana Dental Association wants to help you and your baby maintain a beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime.
While overall American’s dental health is improving, dental disease among young children is on the rise. The statistics are frightening, but there is good news to report. Children’s dental disease is almost 100 percent preventable. By following simple prevention steps at home you greatly improve the chances that your child can grow up cavity free. Children are most vulnerable to tooth decay in their early years, while teeth are forming and enamel is hardening. So, by helping your child maintain good dental health during the critical pre-school years, you greatly increase the chances they will have a beautiful healthy smile as an adult.
What causes dental disease?
Many adults grew up hearing that sugar is bad for teeth, but new science shows sugar is only part of the problem. Cavities form when harmful bacteria are allowed to grow inside the mouth. These bacteria feed on sugar.
Two keys to protecting your child’s smile are:
- Avoid the bacteria that cause cavities
- Avoid the sugar bacteria feed on
How to protect a baby’s smile
Since bacteria that cause dental disease can be passed from parent to child, the baby's parents and caregivers should brush and floss, and see a dentist regularly. Studies show that children of parents with active dental disease are far more likely to develop dental decay. So, take care of your child’s teeth by making your own dental health a priority.
- Avoid risky table manners. Just like you can pass a cold or flu bug to your child, active decay can spread the germs that cause dental disease. Never share eating utensils with your child or allow your baby to share foods or drinks after others. And never allow anyone to put your baby’s pacifier in their mouth.
- Do not feed your baby juices or sodas. The high-sugar content in these drinks feeds the bacteria that cause dental decay. Milk and water are the healthiest drink choices for your child.
- Do not allow your baby to sleep with a bottle or at mom’s breast. Even milk can harm teeth if it is allowed to pool in the mouth and is not swallowed. “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay,” one of the most common dental problems in young children, is directly related to infants falling asleep while drinking from a bottle.
- When your child’s first teeth appear, begin cleaning them with water and a fingertip toothbrush, gum massager or infant toothbrush. Talk to your dentist about when to begin adding fluoridated toothpaste to your child’s brushing routine.
- Wean your child off of the bottle between 12-14 months.
- Schedule your child’s first dental visit by his or her first birthday.
- Tooth decay can begin as soon as teeth appear in your baby’s mouth. Establish good preventive habits early. Remember, decay in primary (baby) teeth may damage permanent teeth that are forming inside the gums. If you suspect dental decay, contact your dentist immediately.
Jody Cleary, Director of Membership & Financial Services