Cavities, or tooth decay, are a common chronic disease in children in the US. Even if cavities occur in the primary teeth or baby teeth, they could cause problems eating, speaking, learning, and playing, which is why baby teeth and oral health are so important.
Fortunately, cavities are preventable. You can instill good oral hygiene habits in your child from birth to preserve their dental health for decades to come.
Risks of Cavities in Children
Your child’s chance of getting cavities is higher if:
- Other family members are prone to cavities.
- Your child consumes a lot of sugary foods and drinks like candy and soda.
- Your child has special health care needs.
- Your child wears braces, orthodontics, or oral appliances.
If any of these situations apply, make sure to speak with your dentist or pediatrician about how you can protect your child’s oral health.
Caring for Babies’ Oral Health
Even though permanent teeth will replace the baby’s teeth, oral health starts at birth and continues throughout childhood.
Birth to 6 Months
- Always clean your infant’s gums after feeding with a moist washcloth around your index finger.
- Do not put a baby to bed with a bottle or prop it in its mouth.
- Use a clean teething ring, a cold, wet washcloth, or a clean finger to massage gums during teething to reduce pain. Cold is soothing, so consider chilling the teething ring.
- Dental decay is an infectious disease. Avoid testing the temperature of a bottle with your mouth, sharing utensils, or cleaning a pacifier or bottle nipple with your mouth, all of which can transmit bacteria to your baby.
6 to 12 Months
- Your baby will get its first teeth between six and eight months. It’s important to care for these teeth immediately and instill healthy habits.
- Clean your baby’s gums after feeding, and use a soft-bristled toothbrush with no toothpaste.
- Provide a clean teething ring or cold, wet washcloth for teething.
- Wean your baby from the bottle as it eats solid foods and drinks from a cup. Most children can drink from a cup between 12 and 14 months.
- Check your baby’s mouth for white or brown spots, which may indicate cavities.
- Schedule your baby’s first dental appointment around its first birthday or within six months of the first tooth coming in.
- Avoid testing the bottle’s temperature with your mouth, sharing utensils, or cleaning a pacifier or bottle nipple with your mouth.
12 to 18 Months
- Once your child is one year old, it’s important to have a dental exam.
- Continue brushing your child’s teeth with plain water twice a day.
- Check for cavities regularly.
- Avoid transmitting bacteria from your own mouth to your child’s mouth.
18 Months to Age 5
- By the age of five, the primary teeth – or baby teeth – should all be present in your child’s mouth. Most toddlers stop using a pacifier or sucking their thumbs by age three.
- At age two, brush your child’s teeth with a small smear of fluoridated toothpaste and teach your child to spit it out.
- Teach your child how to brush their teeth. Children often need help with brushing until they develop hand coordination, which could be around age six or seven.
- Continue to check for white or brown spots that indicate cavities.
- Bring your child to the dentist for regular checkups.
Care for Your Child’s Baby Teeth and Oral Health with Empire Dental Care
Your child’s dental visits help establish good oral hygiene and prevent future dental problems. Empire Dental Care serves families in the Rochester area with a gentle, caring touch, flexible scheduling, and convenient financing options. Contact us today to schedule an appointment! 585-671-1650