Neglecting the Dentist
The No. 1 no-no is waiting until there is a problem before bringing your child to thedentist. The American Dental Association suggests that kids visit the dentist within six months after their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. During that first visit, your baby’s dentist will look for cavities and other oral problems, assess tooth decay risk, and instruct you on the proper ways to clean your baby’s teeth.
After the first visit, your child should continue to have regular check-ups at least every six months. If he is at increased risk of tooth decay, his dentist may recommend more frequent visits.
When you’re nursing a newborn, around-the-clock feedings are more than OK — they’re necessary for the baby’s health. However, once your baby’s teeth begin to show, you may want to avoid those middle-of-the-night feedings.
Lactose, which is the main sugar in breast milk, provides about 40 percent of a breastfed baby's calories. Baby teeth can become decayed if overexposed to breast milk at night because of that sugar. "Mothers who continue to breastfeed when baby teeth come in must be willing to clean their baby's mouth after feeding," explains Dr. Dugas. In fact, he recommends that you wash or wipe away the milk left in the baby's mouth afterevery feeding.
Sucking a Baby Bottle at Night
Called “bottle mouth” by some doctors, pitting and discoloration on the teeth can be a result of nighttime bottle-feeding. If the mouth isn’t cleaned, sugar from the milk or juice will remain on the teeth for a long time at night and can eventually eat away at the enamel. So think twice before lulling a baby to sleep with a bottle full of milk or any liquid containing sugar.
Sippin' On Sippy Cups All Day
Once your child graduates to a sippy cup, avoid this bad oral health habit: Letting him carry it around all day or take it to bed at night (for the same reasons that using a bottle this way is unhealthy). "Constantly sipping milk, juice, or any sweetened liquid does not give a child's natural saliva a chance to rinse away sugars that cause tooth decay,” Dugas says. In fact, New York legislature was recently approved for adding warnings about childhood tooth-decay to sippy cups.
For the best dental health, limit sippy cups to mealtime and snack time — and have your child swish and swallow with water after drinking any sugary drink.
Fluoride — the natural cavity fighter — is good for your kids' teeth. In fact, in communities that do not have enough fluoride in the water system (which can be determined by contacting the local health department), dentists may suggest fluoride supplements starting at six months old.
But too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, a condition that creates white or brown spots on kids’ teeth. So while gooey toothpaste can be fun to play with, it’s important to teach your children not to swallow it — especially if it contains fluoride.
"Until your child is old enough to be able to spit after brushing, you can use non-fluoride toothpaste specially made for kids’ teeth,” says Dugas. “Just make sure they’re getting the right amount of fluoride with a fluoride supplement."