WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PROTECTING THE HEALTH OF YOUR BABY’S TEETH AND GUMS
If you are a parent or carer, you will know that looking after your children’s oral health is crucial to ensuring life-long healthy teeth.
The best time to start is very early in their baby years.
WHEN TO START
Even before your baby has teeth, you can start introducing good oral health habits by:
- Sitting them in the bathroom when you are brushing and flossing so they get an idea that these activities are a natural way of life.
- Buying them a very soft small toothbrush and let them chew on it for fun. Only do this when your baby is safely strapped into their high chair and when you are supervising.
WHEN TEETH START APPEARING
When you see the first signs of teeth, gently rub around the tooth with a soft cloth twice a day.
Give them raw vegetables such as carrot to chew on during meal times as these help to strengthen teeth and keep gums clean.
Once they have a few teeth, it’s important to start flossing also.
GOOD EATING HABITS
Establishing healthy eating habits is not just good for overall, long-term health but also good for protecting teeth for a lifetime.
There are several so-called ‘healthy’ foods that parents often give their babies but which can encourage tooth decay. These include:
- Dried fruit – particularly raisins and dates, which are very high in sugar and stick to teeth
- Bread – often seen as a healthy snack, bread sticks to teeth and encourages the growth of unwanted bacteria and subsequent plaque
- Rice cakes – because they have no sugar added these are seen as healthy snacks, but, like bread, it can stick to teeth and promote bacterial growth
- Juice – even though unsweetened fruit juice is natural, it still contains fruit sugar and is very acidic. Even diluted fruit juice can be damaging. It’s great to get your baby used to just drinking water and not sweet drinks. It will seem perfectly normal to them and no deprivation if that’s what they are used to
- Milk – milk does contain calcium, but it shouldn’t be given at night unless you brush teeth afterwards, as the milk sugar, lactose, can be bad for teeth
TOOTH-FRIENDLY FOOD SWAPS
- Dried fruit – Crunchy vegetable sticks e.g carrots, cucumber, capsicum
- Juice – Water or coconut water
- Milk – Water (if before bed time) or hard cheese at other times
- Bread or other starchy foods – Cheese cubes
TOP TIPS FOR TEETHING
Teething is a prolonged and painful process for both the baby and their parents
There are plenty of natural products available to help relieve the baby’s pain, discomfort and lack of sleep.
Here are some of the most common:
- Homoeopathic teething powder – very safe and easy to use – just rub on baby’s gums
- Natural teething gels that use soothing natural ingredients such as chamomile
- Amber necklaces – amber is not strictly a crystal but is petrified tree sap. It is thought to have pain-relieving properties. Just make sure the necklace is properly made specifically for babies and you follow instructions for its safe use
- Hard vegetables stored in the fridge providing cooling relief for the baby
WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE YOUR BABY TO THE DENTIST?
The best time for your baby’s first visit to the dentist is when they start cutting their first tooth.
The dentist can gently examine teeth and gums to check that they are growing properly.
If thumb sucking is an issue, they can check whether your baby’s teeth are being affected and if so, can discuss strategies to reduce the habit.