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Dental Health Care for Infants

 
A dentist gives advice on infant oral health care.

Weaning is the time when your baby learns to take liquids from a cup instead of from a breast or a bottle. The weaning age varies depending on your baby. Most babies are ready to learn to use a cup by 9 or 12 months of age. When you begin to wean your baby from the bottle make sure that the baby is able to sit up well without support.

You should start encouraging your child to give up using the bottle when your baby shows any of the following signs:

 

  • If your child shortens the nursing time.
  • Gets distracted when held for feeding.
  • Wants to hold the bottle alone.

How to Begin the Weaning Process

At about 9 months of age, most babies are ready to begin weaning. An ideal way to try is to place an empty cup within your baby's reach so that your baby can become familiar with the cup. As you begin to drink from your cup, your baby may begin to try and imitate you by bringing the cup to his or her mouth.

The easiest way to begin weaning your baby from breast or bottle feeding is to replace one of those feedings with a cup feeding. A great place to begin is the feeding that offers the least amount of resistance from your child. As soon as your child adjusts to the cup feeding, replace a second breast or bottle feeding. Giving your child a bottle before or while in bed is not recommended. If your child takes one to bed eliminate this feeding first.

Why Healthy Baby Teeth Are Important

It is important to keep your baby's teeth clean and healthy because baby teeth have so many different purposes while in the baby's mouth. Baby teeth hold spaces open for permanent teeth to come in. They help form the shape of your baby's face, help the child to talk more clearly and help the child to eat and chew more easily.

Tooth decay can result when baby teeth are not cared for. Tooth decay will cause discomfort for your baby or child. Some cases of tooth decay, depending on the severity, can cause an infection. One sign of an infection is the mouth is in discomfort or swelling around the tooth or gums. The baby will also not eat or drink his or her favorites. Another sign may be a pimple-like mark on the gums above the tooth. If this should happen, consult your dentist as soon as possible.

 

How to Prevent Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the plaque that forms on the teeth. When the child eats, drinks, or takes medicine that has sugar in it, the bacteria produce acid. The acid destroys the teeth, or in other words, causes tooth decay.

To prevent tooth decay clean your baby's teeth with a soft cloth after each feeding. As the child grows older, a toothbrush may be used, as long as someone supervises the child's brushing. It is suggested that toothbrushing be supervised until about the age of 8 or 9. Try not to give your baby or child large amounts of sugary foods on a daily basis. Use the candy as a reward every once in a while. Brushing your child's teeth with toothpaste is recommended only if you are using one of the ADA approved toothpastes with some amount of fluoride. Such toothpastes (e.g., Crest®, Colgate®, Aim® and Aquafresh®) can be found in local grocery stores. Almost all brands make a children's flavor toothpaste.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

A severe case of tooth decay can occur when the baby is allowed to use the bottle or the breast as a pacifier. When the baby goes to sleep with a bottle of apple juice or milk in his or her mouth, the acid that is formed breaks down the tooth enamel very quickly. Instead of the child swallowing the liquid it sits and covers the teeth all night long; that causes the enamel to break down and dental cavities to form. To prevent "baby bottle tooth decay," try and avoid bedtime and naptime feedings or long frequent feedings. Use the bottle at feeding time only, and not as a pacifier. Do not let your baby run around sucking on the bottle all day long. Wipe your child's teeth off after each feeding and before he or she goes to bed.

Teething

As your child's teeth start to appear in the mouth, your child may have some discomfort. The baby's gums may become sore and irritated, and he or she may become cranky or fussy. To help reduce the irritation we suggest rubbing your baby's gums with a clean finger. Gently massaging the area will help the discomfort of your baby's mouth. Letting your child chew on something cold (like a chewing ring) will help a lot. The teething process will not make your child ill. It often seems that your child has a cold or mild fever along with the drooling and chewing. If your child is or becomes ill call your physician.

How Many Teeth and When

The first teeth are already present inside the child's jaw at the time of birth. Usually by the 6th month, the first tooth will start to appear in the mouth. By the time the child is 2 ½ to 3 years of age the child will have 20 teeth present in the mouth. Around the age of 6, the child will begin to loose his or her teeth. The upper and lower front teeth are the first to fall out. The primary molars are lost between the ages of 10 and 12 years old.

Sealants

The sealant is a liquid material that flows through all the grooves on the chewing surface of a tooth and is hardened. They are used mostly in molars of adult teeth. The sealant protects the chewing surface of the teeth from the formation of cavities. They do not protect in between the teeth. The research done on pit and fissure sealants are showing they last 7-15 years with some research finding they last a lifetime with the proper maintenance.

How Fluoride Can Help

Using fluoride is one of the best ways to help prevent tooth decay. Fluoride makes the tooth surface stronger and more resistant to tooth decay. Fluoride can be found by prescription from your dentist, in vitamins and in water that you drink.

Thumbsucking and the Use of a Pacifier

Sucking is a natural need for all babies. Usually no damage will occur from thumbsucking or a pacifier, unless the child continues past the age of 5. At this point in time, the child can begin to cause a change in the growth pattern of the jaws. Watch this habit closely when your child reaches 3 to 4 years old. If thumbsucking or use of the pacifier causes changes in the jaws, the best form of treatment will be orthodontics. If the problem persists visit the dentist.

Snacking Habits: Good Diet Equals Healthier Teeth

Learning early eating habits that are healthy will lead to healthy teeth. A lot of the snacks that children eat these days are terrible for the teeth. Food such as Jolly Ranchers®, Fun Fruits®, Shark Bites®, Now and Laters® or foods that are caramelized and stick to the teeth, are the worst kinds of snacks for young children. It would be better for a child to eat snacks that crunch or melt in their mouth like cookies or ice cream. If your child has good oral hygiene habits and is not prone to having a lot of cavities, then snacking, in moderation, is acceptable. This includes brushing teeth at least twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste and visiting your dentist regularly.

If you need a dentist who is good with children, call us at 1-866-970-0441. We'll put you in touch with a great dentist today!

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