There’s more to dental hygiene than nagging your kids to brush their teeth after meals and snacks. By watching your diet during pregnancy and encouraging your kids to eat veggies instead of junk food after school, you can save a lifetime of smiles.
Fetal tooth buds begin to form just five weeks into pregnancy. The teeth form between the third and sixth month. Your baby’s future dental health depends a great deal on your diet during pregnancy. It should be rich in calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A, C and D. Your baby’s gummy smile is a delight — but don’t be fooled. Babies aren’t toothless! Underneath those gums are the 20 primary teeth that will erupt in the next 2 1/2 years and serve your child through the first part of life. Good dental hygiene starts early. After each feeding, or at least twice a day, wipe your baby’s gums with a damp cloth or gauze pad to remove plaque – the thin, sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on both gums and teeth. Continue a wiping regimen as baby’s teeth break through. Switch to brushing before all 20 teeth erupt, usually around age 2. During teething, you can soothe your child’s sore gums by rubbing your clean finger on them or giving your child a cool teething ring on which to chew. Make sure your child gets enough fluoride, which makes teeth decay-resistant. Fluoride strengthens enamel even before teeth have broken through the gums! Fluoride in your drinking water may be enough if your child drinks one quart a day. But ask your child’s physician about fluoride drops, especially if you breast-feed your baby.
Never put your baby to bed with a bottle. When she dozes off with the bottle of milk, formula or juice in her mouth, pools of sugary liquid form next to the teeth. That can lead to early childhood caries (baby bottle tooth decay), which can literally destroy the teeth of an infant or young child. A bottle in bed containing any kind of liquid also can be a choking hazard. Likewise, never give your child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid. Also avoid sugary
Dentists are finding new success in preventing cavities with sealants, a sort of liquid plastic material applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, where decay occurs most often. The sealant is a barrier against plaque and acid. But the best — and least expensive — way to prevent cavities is to brush and floss properly and regularly and avoid sugary junk foods. Teach your child the art of “smart snacking” to minimize the danger to oral health. Candy bars last a few seconds, but cavities are forever! (See Tip