Article written by: Racheale Gray

First-time parents are often bombarded with conflicting advice about child-rearing from well-meaning family, friends and even professionals. It can often be difficult to sift through the bank of information and decide which options best suit you and your new addition. When it comes to caring for your child’s health, more often than not the approach is common sense. The following information can help new parents with an important aspect of a young child’s development: caring for the oral health of infants and toddlers. So let’s begin….

Teething

A baby’s first tooth generally comes through the gum between six to nine months. The symptoms of teething, however, can begin at about four months. Teething for infants can cause a little to a lot of pain and discomfort. You may notice excess dribbling, a change in eating habits, and flushed cheeks. Some widespread effects are temperature, change in bowel movements, and nappy rash. Babies often place a finger or object in their mouth when teething as the pressure on gums may relieve some of the discomfort. Try giving baby a clean, cold teething ring or even a face washer, which has been wet and then cooled in the fridge. Chemists offer safe teething gels also.

THUMB AND FINGER SUCKING Babies have a natural sucking reflex, which begins at birth. For some babies, sucking their thumb or finger can be very soothing. However, prolonged sucking can cause the front teeth and the surrounding bone to be pushed out of shape. Most children stop this habit on their own, but some may need encouragement. If you toddle continues to suck their thumb or finger into preschool years, you may wish to seek dental advice.

Tooth Decay and Prevention

When teeth first appear in the mouth of your child, they are more susceptible to decay because they are not mature and hardened like adult teeth. Babies are not born with decay-causing bacteria in their mouths. This bacteria is passed on through kissing, food-tasting or by mothers cleaning dummies with their own mouths. The first step in keeping your child’s mouth decay-free is to ensure that your own teeth and gums are healthy and clean. Eating patterns, the type of food and also the drinks you give your child are important, too. Sugary food and drink is well-known to cause decay. Excessively acidic food and drink, such as fruit juice, can also wear down the protective enamel on teeth and open the door to decay. Prevent your child from suckling on a bottle during sleep time. The production of protective saliva is reduced when a child is sleeping, therefore, the risk of bacteria attacking their teeth is increased.

Finally, introduce an infant toothbrush as soon as teeth start to appear in your child’s mouth – and gently brush your baby’s visible teeth after a solid meal or bottle. Using fluoride toothpaste will help your child’s mouth remain decay-free. A mild toothpaste designed for children under six years is recommended.

Plus, give your baby the toothbrush to play with in between meals. This will get them used to the feel of the brush in their mouth and will encourage good cleaning habits from early on. It is never too early to start. At Casey Dentists, we offer complimentary examinations for children under the age of 12 years.

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