Around four to six months old, most babies start showing signs of teething. Amid all of the irritability, drooling and red and swollen gums associated with teething, parents suddenly become aware of another important aspect of baby safety and health – preventing dental injuries and establishing good oral hygiene. Although it may seem overwhelming, the following tips can help parents navigate oral safety and health dangers, and put babies on the path to bright and healthy smiles.
Dental Injuries: Keeping Your Baby Safe
Dental injuries are common among babies and toddlers, but most of them can be prevented by following a few common sense guidelines:
- Refrigerate gel-filled teething rings and toys rather than freezing them. If they are frozen, they may break more easily when your kiddo gnaws on them. This could lead to an oral injury or a choking hazard.
- Follow baby product manufacturer recommendations for age and use to prevent unnecessary injuries. It’s also important to keep an eye out for any baby product recalls.
- Look around your house from your child’s vantage point and child proof accordingly. Remove things that could be choking or trip and fall hazards.
- Strap your baby into car seats, strollers, swings and other seated toys to prevent falls and oral injuries. Even when your baby is properly strapped in, never leave a them unattended in any type of carrier or seat that is placed on a table or elevated surface.
- Make it a hard and fast rule that when your baby begins walking, you won’t allow them to eat or drink from a sippy cup or bottle while walking. Falls at the beginning stages of walking are par for the course and if your baby is eating or drinking while walking, there is an increased risk of dental injury or choking.
With all this being said, accidents still can happen! If your toddler knocks out a baby tooth, schedule an appointment with your pediatric dentist as soon as possible. Your pediatric dentist can determine if any intervention is necessary to keep proper spacing if a baby tooth is lost prematurely.
Early Cavity Prevention
Most babies’ teeth begin coming through their gums between four to six months of age. Tooth decay in babies and young children is common, but very preventable.
- Put only water, formula, breast milk or milk in bottles.
- Stay away from sugary drinks, such as juice, sweetened water or soda.
- Offer teething biscuits to babies over 8 months old. But remember to protect against cavities, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean cloth after they’ve eaten the biscuit.
- Never put babies to bed with a bottle, even if it’s just filled with breast milk or formula.
- Don’t share straws or utensils with babies, as this can transfer cavity-causing bacteria from parent to child.
Establishing Good Oral Hygiene Habits
It’s never too early to establish good oral health habits, even before your baby’s first tooth emerges.
- Wipe your baby’s mouth after each feeding with a clean, damp wash cloth or gauze pad.
- When your baby’s teeth begin to come in, brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes with a child-sized toothbrush and a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- You should start flossing between your baby’s teeth once a day as soon as they have two teeth that touch one another.
- Your baby’s first dental visit should be within six months of the eruption of their first tooth or by their first birthday, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.