How to Keep Your Baby’s Teeth and Gums Healthy

0-12 Months

Caring for your baby’s teeth and gums might seem unnecessary, since those baby teeth just fall out anyway. However, poor dental hygiene habits that start early cause serious problems later. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, tooth decay is the most common chronic infectious childhood disease. The reason? Liquid sugars. Limiting sugar and establishing good dental hygiene habits now will help keep your baby’s smile a healthy one.

Here are some tips and suggestions to protect your baby’s teeth and gums.

What should my baby drink?

Your baby needs only breastmilk or iron-fortified formula. It’s as simple as that! Once baby has started solid foods, it’s also safe to offer a few sips of water.

Regardless of how many teeth your baby has (if she even has any), the extra sugar from sweet drinks can corrode teeth that haven’t broken through yet. And, as you can imagine, no one really needs to learn to like sweets. So when your baby is exposed to sweet drinks, she’s naturally going to want more of them and not be as interested in water, and we all know water is critical to a healthy life as she grows older.

What if I’m already giving my baby juice?

If you’re thinking, “Great, my mother-in-law already talked me into giving my baby a little bit of juice in his bottle and now he loves it,” it’s OK—you can fix this! Simply start to water down the juice by giving half water and half juice. Keep diluting the juice until it’s 100 percent water. Or, just go cold turkey and cut the juice altogether. There will probably be some complaining with this approach, but at least it’s faster. If he’s fussy, try adding some ice to his water. Cold water can be soothing to his gums if he is teething.

Kick the falling-asleep-with-a-bottle habit

You just spent an hour rocking her to sleep and now you’re scared of waking her, we know! But this is a great time to begin a bedtime routine. Helping her learn to fall asleep without a bottle in her mouth may also help her sleep for longer stretches at night, because she won’t associate sleep with the bottle. Feed her, brush or rinse her mouth with water, read a book, sing a special song and then put her to bed. 

Visit the dentist

Once that first pearly white pops out, you can bring him for his first dental checkup. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you take him to the dentist within six months of the time his first tooth comes through.

The other benefits of good dental health

Nobody likes going to the dentist, and parents especially don’t like seeing their little ones frightened or in pain. Offering juice and other sweet drinks instead of water can lead to cavities and tooth decay—which means extra visits to the dentist. Water is all she needs. Plus, you don’t need the sticky mess that comes with sweet drinks in a bottle or cup anyway. Your carpets, car and clothes will thank you!

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