Your baby's first tooth is often accompanied by warm feelings, celebration, and bite marks on any low-lying furniture. What most people don't associate with that milestone is the beginning of oral hygiene and health habits. However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that you should bring your child in for their first visit when this first tooth appears--or no later than their first birthday.
This time also marks the moment when you need to consider the oral health of your child. There are a number of things you can do at this critical time to ensure that your child starts off with a great foundation of oral health and comfort.
Tip #1--Ditch The Travel Bottle
Fussy babies often find it soothing to have access to a bottle. Most often, this is more of a comfort issue for the child--they aren't really hungry or thirsty. In spite of that, many parents indulge their child by giving them a bottle to carry around with them, in the car seat for a long trip, or even in their crib.
This practice has an unintended side effect. When a baby places their teeth on a bottle for a prolonged period of time, the liquid tends to pool and erode your child's tooth enamel. In fact, this can become so severe that it causes what is called baby bottle tooth decay. To avoid this, don't allow your child to have a bottle between feedings and teach them to take liquids from a cup as soon as possible.
Tip #2--Cut Fruit Juice With Water
You probably wouldn't allow your child to drink soda from their bottle. In fact, if you saw a parent doing that in public, you might feel compelled to give them a piece of your mind. You wouldn't think twice about a parent feeding their child fruit juice, though.
The funny thing is, in terms of sugar content, most fruit juices are just as bad for your child's teeth and overall diet as soda. The best way to deal with this is to change your child's fruit juice servings to five parts water for every one part of juice. Your baby isn't likely to notice the difference.
Tip #3--Start Brushing From The First Tooth
Babies are fickle creatures. Some take issue when a parent tries to wipe their face, while others don't like to have anything in their mouth that they aren't biting down on. This makes it difficult to brush a child's teeth without a nasty bite!
Nevertheless, start modeling and actually brushing your child's teeth when the first tooth shows up. While it seems silly to brush a single tooth, the process will build familiarity for your child and will also establish the schedule of brushing after meals. Then, when more teeth make brushing vital, it'll already happen daily.
Tip #4--Fluoride Is Your Friend
Most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride. Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel on a child's tooth and makes their teeth resistant to the bacteria that causes decay. That means your baby will get all the fluoride they need without much thought--most of the time.
If, however, you get your water from a well or if your local water isn't fortified, your baby might require a supplement. Fortunately, fluoride supplements for babies are easy-to-use droplets that add fluoride to your baby's normal feedings. Talk to your local pediatric dentist if you think your baby might need this. More information can also be found at sites like http://www.drheimann.com.
Great dental health isn't an accident. It's the product of great habits that begin from a baby's first tooth. By keeping these tips in mind, you'll help build the foundation for dental health that you child will enjoy for years to come.