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Children & Dentistry

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Early Dental Care

According to the Ontario Dental Association, a child’s first visit to the dentist should occur as early as 1 years old; however, care should begin right after birth. The information provided is intended to give you some guidelines about the things you can do at home to help get your child on the right track toward a lifetime of good oral health.

1. From a dental point of view, breast-feeding is preferable to bottle-feeding. The oral muscles, which are used when breast-feeding, help the proper development of the mouth. After weaning, skip the bottle if possible and go directly to a cup.

2. If you bottle-feed, sugar or syrup should not be added to the formula unless specifically ordered by your medical doctor. If a sweetener is added to water or formula, it should be eliminated as soon as the doctor permits it. At about one year of age, a cup should replace the bottle - even at night.

3. When bottle-feeding, imitate breast-feeding as closely as possible, holding the baby in your lap in the breast-feeding position and cuddling while feeding. The hole in the bottle nipple should be small enough to make the baby use the oral muscles to the same extent as with breast-feeding. The bottle should not be left with the baby in the crib at anytime because:

A. the contents of the bottle (even unsweetened juice or milk) can be damaging to the teeth if left in contact for long periods of time (i.e. overnight).

B. the nipple itself, depending on its position in the mouth, can permanently deform a developing mouth.

4. If your baby shows a tendency towards thumbsucking, we advise a soother (which should never be dipped in sugar, honey or any other sweetener). It may be tiring for you to have to replace the soother back into your baby’s mouth time after time at the beginning, but the effort will be small compared to the problems that may result if your baby becomes a habitual thumbsucker. At about one year of age, the soother should be discarded. Some crankiness may follow, but the chances of your child having an improperly formed mouth will be much less.

5. Whether you breast-feed or bottle-feed your baby, it is important to cleanse the mouth after each feeding. A gauze mouth-wipe will produce a fresh taste in the mouth, prevent bacterial fermentation of milky residues and reduce the sensitivity of the mouth so that brushing will be less challenging when the teeth begin to erupt. We suggest the use of 2”x2” gauze pads available at any drug store. The regular wiping of the mouth with a water-dampened gauze pad wrapped around a parent’s finger will provide the benefits just described. Gentle massaging of the gum pads over the developing teeth is also beneficial. If the child is a demand feeder, it is of course necessary to cleanse the mouth more often.

6. At teething time, biscuits are definitely not recommended. They have a damaging effect by forming a sticky cavity-forming film around the teeth and also by introducing a sweet tooth appetite that could lead to bad eating habits later on. Rubber teething rings sometimes meant to be frozen and soft plastic toys made for this purpose are much better than biscuits! Also, gently massaging your baby’s gums with dampened gauze will help relieve the “itchiness” associated with teething.

7. When choosing baby foods, remember that as a rule, infants like bland foods. Do not use your own taste when choosing flavors, but use common sense, avoiding sugary and salty foods. Read the labels!

8. Tempting your baby to eat by adding sugar, honey or jam to the food will only lead to over-feeding and a desire for sweets. If a healthy baby will not eat, the infant is not hungry. Avoid snacking, and eat balanced meals yourself to set a healthy example for your baby. Never bribe a child to eat, especially with a sweet or dessert. A sweet tooth is very easy to develop, but extremely hard to eliminate.

9. While the baby teeth are coming in, it is important that a parent brush the teeth after each meal and before bed. Also, before bedtime, it is important for a parent to use dental floss to clean away bacterial deposits from between the child’s teeth. The easiest way to floss a small child’s teeth is to have the child stretch out on a bed with his/her head on a pillow. The parent should sit by the child’s head and will then have good visibility and access to both the upper and lower teeth. Small disposable flossing sticks can facilitate flossing a child’s mouth. A child does not have the co-ordination and dexterity to take over the total responsibility for brushing and flossing his/her own teeth until he/she is eight or nine years old. When brushing and flossing become a part of the daily routine in early childhood, it is likely that they will continue as lifetime habits.

The health of the adult teeth is greatly determined by the care given to the baby teeth. Proper positioning of the permanent teeth, healthy formation of the jaw bones, good chewing efficiency and normal speech development are all dependent to a large extent on the presence of twenty healthy baby teeth being maintained right up to the normal “shedding” time.

If you have specific questions or concerns about your child, don’t hesitate to contact our office as this letter has only dealt with basic things that can be done by parents at home. We encourage you to drop by our dental office to view a video on caring for children’s oral health. It can be a great way to re-enforce your knowledge on dental health and it might be a great opportunity to meet the team at Mount Albert Dental Centre (if we haven’t already had the pleasure of course).