H. E. Henry, DDS, INC. 200 Saint Thomas Dr. Weirton, WV 26062.3844
GENERAL DENTISTRY Children and Adults 304.723.7200

Children’s Dental Health: Birth – 3 Years Old

Your child’s dental health begins at birth. The 20 baby teeth that will appear in the first 3 years of your baby’s life are already there in your baby’s jawbones. Baby teeth are key for chewing, speaking, and appearance. They also hold space in the jaws for upcoming adult teeth. Even though they fall out, your child’s baby teeth are important, and you need to take good care of them. Baby teeth that are not cared for can cause pain, eating problems, and infection, just like permanent teeth can.

  • Parents are responsible for caring for their child’s oral health.
  • Don’t share saliva with your baby by sharing spoons, licking their pacifiers or pre-chewing their food. Mouth germs are transmissible.
  • Sucking is a natural reflex for babies. Whether it’s their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects, sucking helps babies feel secure and happy.
  • A baby’s front four teeth usually erupt at about 6 months. (In some instances, teeth can be already present at birth.) Eruption will continue until the full set of 20 teeth are present by age 3. Teething can cause some sleepless nights and irritable, fussy, drooling babies; but, diarrhea, rashes, and fever are not symptoms of this process. A cold pacifier is often the best treatment; avoid teething gels, as these will inadvertently also numb the back of the throat.
  • Pacifiers, especially orthodontically shaped ones, are encouraged through age one and can help develop oral musculature and give shape to the developing dental arch. If your child uses a pacifier, give them one that is clean — don’t put it in your mouth first or dip it in sugar, honey, or other sweetened liquids.
  • After each feeding, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This will remove plaque. When your child’s teeth begin to break through the gums, brush them gently with a soft, infant-sized toothbrush and water.
  • You can prevent tooth decay for your kids by lowering the risk of your baby getting the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Cleaning your baby’s new teeth reduces the number of bacteria in your baby’s mouth that cause decay.
  • Once your child’s teeth start to come in, brush using an infant toothbrush and an amount of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.
  • Place only formula, milk, breast milk, or water in baby bottles. However, infants should never be put to bed with a bottle. Never put your child to bed with a bottle at night or at nap time unless it is filled with only water. Milk, formula, juice and other drinks such as soda all have sugar in them. If sugary liquids stay on your baby’s teeth too long, it can lead to tooth decay (nursing bottle decay), and decayed teeth can cause pain for your baby.
  • If a pacifier is used, it must also be discontinued at the same time the bottle is discontinued when the cup is introduced, usually between 10-14 months.
  • Encourage your children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and don’t let your child sip “at will” all day from a training cup (grazing) with sweetened beverages. Remember, juice packs, sports drinks, Hi-C, soda, and Kool Aide are devoid of nutrition and mostly sugar water! Use plain fluoridated water throughout the day as in-between- meal drinks; don’t give your baby a bottle or sippy cup filled with sweet drinks to carry around.
  • Discuss your child’s specific fluoride needs with your dentist or pediatrician. Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally and is found in oceans, rivers, and lakes. It is also added to city water systems, toothpaste, and mouth rinses to make tooth enamel more resistant to decay and help repair weakened enamel.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits that include a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Serve fruits and vegetables as nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes. Do not reward your child with candy, suckers, sweet treats, ice cream, or soda.
  • Make sure all caretakers (grandparents, relatives, and sitters) are all informed about proper nutrition and treats.
  • If you suspect a problem with your child’s mouth or teeth, schedule a visit to the dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise, your child’s first well visit to the dentist should be scheduled between 1 and 2 years of age. Consider a morning appointment when the child is rested and cooperative. At that time, dental professionals will examine your child’s mouth, teach you how to care for your child’s teeth at home, counsel you on proper nutrition and prevention of future dental problems. This will establish a “dental home” for your child’s future dental care.
  • Remember to keep your anxiety and concerns to yourself; emphasize the positive as children can pick up on your emotions or fear. Avoid the use of words such as “hurt”, “pain”, “needle” that promote anxiety. Never use the dental visit as a punishment or a threat. Generally, do not prepare the child for the visit. The dental team will explain the procedures to the child utilizing a “tell, show, do” approach. Except for your questions to the dental team, please remain silent while professionals are giving your child instructions.
  • Childproof your house to prevent falls.
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