Well this is a bit of a trick question. Dental care can begin during pregnancy. Many obstetricians recommend prenatal vitamins with a small dose of fluoride for the developing baby teeth. Preferably dental care begins prior to the eruption of the first tooth with daily cleansing of the gum tissue by gently swabbing the tissue with a clean cloth or starter tooth brush. Brush newly erupted teeth at least twice daily. An easy way to enforce the idea of brushing after meals, while the child is young, is to keep child size tooth brushes in the kitchen. After eating, while still buckled in the feeding chair, hand the child a tooth brush to chew on. Follow up with a quick parental brushing after clean up, and then rinse and wash the tooth brush just as you do the baby spoon.
To keep those baby teeth strong we recommend visits to the dentist every 6 months after the initial eruption to monitor healthy development and swab the teeth with fluoride varnish keeping the teeth hard and blocking the enamel tubules from penetrating bacteria. The typical child will not be receptive to the full dental visit complete with sitting in the chair and having the hygienist clean and polish until about 3 years of age. That being said, we have had some 2-year-old children do great and some 5-year-old children that are not ready socially for that interaction, and we treat each patient accordingly. If you're not sure if timing is right, come on in to Apple Tree Dental in Rexburg, and we can have a quick social visit with the dentist or hygienist.
Depending on where you live and the amount of natural fluoridation or lack of fluoridated water systems, a fluoride supplement may be recommended by your dentist or pediatrician. These commonly are combined with a multi-vitamin and are not so much for the baby teeth as they are a benefit to the developing permanent teeth. Rexburg has some great water, but depending on where you live and if you're using well water, things could be different. If you're buying bottled water, check to see if it contains fluoride.
Studies show babies are not born with the bacteria that causes tooth decay and that this bacteria is usually acquired through contamination from the primary care provider. Care can be taken to postpone this introduction by avoiding using parental saliva to clean off that pacifier or bottle nipple, sharing cups, sloppy kisses and so forth.
Baby teeth are adorable and so are the children that can self-sooth by sucking on their thumb or fingers. It was one of the hardest things to encourage my daughter to take a pacifier instead of her thumb, because she was just so dang cute! But I knew it would be much harder to quit the thumb than the baby binky. Thumbs and pacifiers can cause narrowing of the roof of the mouth and ‘buck’ teeth which can lead to poor speech development, poor tooth alignment, and improper wear in both primary and permanent dentition. At Apple Tree Dental we suggest that you use pacifiers with caution and discontinue by 12-18 months of age.
1-Start tooth care at birth by swabbing gum tissue daily.
2-If your city is not fluoridated or under-fluoridated, talk to your doctors about fluoride supplements.
3-Develop good brushing habits along with eating schedule.
4-Visit your dentist within 6 months of that first erupted tooth.
5-Avoid sharing saliva from day one.
6-Discourage thumb and finger sucking habits.
Stop by, and I would love to share more with you!
-Sharlyn Johnston, RDH
Rexburg Apple Tree Dental
33 Winn Dr. Suite 2
Rexburg, ID 83440