Dental hygiene for babies and toddlers
By Kimberly Nicholson, MD, FAAP
Baby’s first tooth! Whether it happens at 4 or 14 months (both are normal), there are some common pitfalls to be aware of and some new things that will be added to your day.
The recommendations from the American Dental Association (ADA) include beginning to brush teeth from the time the teeth first come in. Use a soft toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothpaste should contain fluoride, but use only a rice-grain size smear of toothpaste. We know that babies will not be able to spit any out, so this tiny amount is safe for them to swallow. Your goal is to give the last feeding of the day, then brush teeth, then nothing more to eat or drink until morning (water is okay). By six months of age healthy babies are big enough to make it 8-10 hours without eating.
Once you’ve mastered this bedtime brushing routine, add in brushing in the morning for extra credit. In addition to fluoride in the toothpaste, there should be fluoride in the drinking water and also a topical fluoride treatment applied at your child’s pediatrician or dentist every 3-6 months. Most local communities provide a safe and effective dose of fluoride in the city water. If you have well water, prefer to drink bottled water, or live in an area without fluoridated water (Bonita Springs, Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva Islands), talk to your child’s pediatrician about how to supplement.
Finally, watch out for all of the products at the grocery store that can contribute to cavities and tooth decay. Even diluted 100% fruit juice can cause cavities. If you choose to give juice, no more than four ounces of 100% fruit juice should be given per day for children ages 1-3, and it is best to give it at a single sitting and brush teeth after.
As always, ask your pediatrician about these or any other recommendations. Your child’s pediatrician is ready to partner with you so that those baby teeth are just as healthy when the tooth fairy comes as they were when baby got his first tooth.
Kimberly Nicholson, M.D., is a pediatrician in the Fort Myers pediatrics office of Physicians’ Primary Care of Southwest Florida at 9350 Camelot Drive, 239-481-5437, and the Cape Coral Pediatrics office at 1261 Viscaya Pkwy, 239-573-7337.