A child’s dental care actually starts before they are born. A healthy pregnancy ensures that baby teeth begin to develop properly. During pregnancy, it is recommended that mothers maintain a balanced, nutritious diet, and that they receive a complete dental exam and treatments for any existing cavities and gum disease.
After birth, mothers should continue to maintain a balanced, nutritious diet, especially if they are breastfeeding. If you bottle-feed your baby, do not put him or her to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or sugary liquids. This contributes to the development of infant caries, also known as baby bottle tooth decay. If your baby will not sleep without a bottle, make sure that it is filled only with water, and if possible, remove it after he or she is done feeding or has fallen asleep.
A child’s first tooth usually erupts (breaks through the gum line) by the time he or she is 6 months old. Many children experience discomfort during the teething process, which typically lasts until the child is about 3 years old. Permanent teeth begin to erupt at about age 6.
Many dental professionals recommend that your child begin seeing a dentist as soon as his or her first tooth emerges. It is also advised that your child meets with a pediatric dentist, a type of dentist who specializes in caring for the dental health of infants, children, and adolescents.
It is recommended that you begin cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as the teeth emerge with a soft, moist cloth or gauze. At about age 1, your child should have enough teeth that you can begin using small amounts of fluoridated toothpaste. You should brush and floss your child’s teeth for them until they are old enough and coordinated enough to do it themselves (about age 8, or when they can tie their own shoes).
Be sure to help your child maintain a balanced, nutritious diet that includes fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Soft cheeses and yogurts are also recommended. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as pastries, pasta, and white bread.
Your child should brush at least twice a day, and floss at least once each day. Schedule regular appointments for your child with a dentist to monitor his or her oral health and make sure that the teeth and gums remain in good condition.