A: When most people think of children’s dental health, they think of children toddler age and older who are able to brush their own teeth. However, the building blocks for hygiene begin much earlier. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Take care early on. The fetal period is critical. Teeth actually begin to grow within the first three to six weeks after conception, making a healthy diet during pregnancy an important first step to your child developing a strong and healthy mouth. Foods with high levels of calcium are vital to tooth and bone growth, and a variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and foods with low sugar content help maintain overall health.
Practice makes perfect. It’s important to begin a regimen with your baby as soon as they are born. Something as simple as wiping gums with a warm cloth after feeding can help maintain healthy gums and has the added benefit of getting him used to the sensations he’ll experience at a dental exam. This will make for a much easier first visit to the dentist’s office when the time comes.
Timing is everything. Speaking of the dentist’s office, you should book an appointment as soon as the first tooth emerges. At this visit, a professional can check the growth and development of his teeth and jaw, as well as answer questions about thumb-sucking, pacifier use and the cadence of visits and cleanings to maintain.
Brush up on basics. The first tooth is also a signal to start another important dental hygiene practice: brushing. The minute it becomes visible, you can begin to gently brush. Again, this practice helps build healthy habits for infants and young children, and once your tot has two side-by-side teeth, it’s time to start flossing!
By establishing the foundation for children’s dental health and hygiene before and after they are born, you can give your kids a childhood free of painful tooth issues and a solid basis for lifelong oral health they will carry with them into adulthood.
—GEORGE KOUMARAS, DDS, National Dental Director for Anthem, Inc.