Basic Dental Care for Infants and Children

Baby teeth begin to form during pregnancy. It is very important for pregnant women to eat a nutritious diet that includes all of the necessary vitamins and minerals. Regular checkups should include comprehensive dental care to treat cavities and gum disease to avoid spreading bacteria to the fetus.

It is important to start good habits early. Use a soft cloth daily to clean the baby’s gums. Teeth typically start to break through the gums at around 6 months of age. Start brushing the child’s teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush as soon as the teeth come in. Start flossing as soon as the teeth touch. Children should be brushing their teeth in the morning and at night by age 4, but may need to be supervised until they are 8 years old.

The family doctor will examine the baby’s mouth during routine well visits. A dentist will typically want to see the child for the first check-up at 12 months of age and then every 6 months thereafter. The first visit may not include xrays or cleaning, that depends on the individual situation and how the child acts during the visit. A full set of baby teeth has 20 teeth, and will finish erupting by age 3. Between the ages of 6 and 11, baby (primary) teeth will become loose and fall out, and will be replaced by adult (permanent) teeth.

Give your children nutritious food to develop strong teeth and healthy bodies. Avoid sharing utensils with babies, as saliva can transfer harmful bacteria that cause cavities. Talk to your dentist if your child sucks fingers or thumbs. Do not put infants or small children to bed with a a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or any other fluids that contain sugar. Fluoride needs should be discussed with the dentist. It is not recommended to use fluoridated toothpaste prior to age 3 due to risk of ingestion. Dental offices can prescribe supplements or use fluoride varnish to help protect the child’s teeth from cavities.

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