Q: What can I do to prevent my baby from developing cavities? At what age should I start making dental appointments?
A: Parents and caregivers should realize that a baby’s teeth are susceptible to developing cavities from the moment they appear in the mouth. As a result, oral care should begin soon after the baby is born, and their gums should be cleaned with a clean, damp cloth or wet gauze pad after each feeding. As early as 4 months or as late as 12 months of age, the upper and lower front teeth first begin to appear.
You may begin brushing your child’s teeth the moment these teeth emerge. Never let your baby or toddler fall asleep with a bottle, unless it contains only pure water and then only after the bottle is rinsed out well before being filled. A bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juices, etc., is likely to cause decay. A pacifier coated with a sugary substance is also likely to cause cavities. This condition is referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, or Nursing-Bottle Syndrome. The teeth most likely to be affected are the upper front teeth, but other teeth can become damaged as well.
The good news is that it is preventable. Make sure to schedule your child’s first visit to the dentist by the first birthday. It is best if your child’s first experience occurs at a time before invasive dental work becomes necessary. A ride on the dental chair, magic tricks with “Mr. Thirsty” and visiting the toy chest should make your child’s visit pleasurable and non-threatening.
The first visit should also include the counting of teeth while your child looks at what is happening in a hand held mirror. Speak positively about dental visits, and make it something to look forward to. It is important to establish a positive relationship between your child and the dentist by starling early and continuing to see the dentist for regular check-ups. And don’t forget to share this valuable knowledge with anyone else who may be helping to care for your child.