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There are a number of reasons to start a consistent, regular dental hygiene routine from a very early age. Not only does it protect the vulnerable milk teeth, it also gives the permanent teeth the best chance of forming straight and strong.
Importantly, starting a routine early in life builds a healthy habit of dental care in your children which they will hopefully carry through into adulthood.
Read more about good oral health and hygiene.
To learn more about the specific issues affecting our teeth as we grow older, read the articles below.
Anyone who has cared for a baby dreads teething time. Naturally, this makes the gums sore and the baby irritable. There are sleepless nights, and more drool than you would ever imagine could come from such a small mouth.
Teething usually starts about six months after birth, when the front four baby teeth begin to push through the gums. In some babies, the first tooth might not even appear until as late as 14 months. Eventually, there will be 20 baby or milk teeth — usually by age three.
Because we expect a baby to be cranky and sleepless while teething, we may not be aware if the irritability actually has another cause. If your baby remains cranky or shows signs of discomfort for an extended period, it may be necessary to talk to your doctor to check if something else may be the problem.
Even before the first tooth has appeared, it is advisable to start cleaning the baby’s mouth and gums regularly. A few days after birth, use a clean cloth or moist gauze pad to wipe the gums to remove any bacteria.
Once the first teeth do push through, start brushing their teeth with a child-size toothbrush and water. Only begin to use a tiny drop of fluoride toothpaste after the age of two. Always make sure the child spits out the toothpaste.
Dummies (pacifiers): Sometimes, a dummy is the only thing that will calm a baby or young child. Sometimes, it can be tempting to dip it in honey or some other sweet substance to encourage the baby to take it. But this means the sugars — and any bacteria —on the dummy will stay in the child’s mouth, close to the teeth, for a very long time.
Saliva: We might think it an innocent and perfectly normal thing to do to clean our baby’s dummy by sucking it clean ourselves, or licking their spoon. But our saliva is full of bacteria. The moment that spoon or dummy is transferred back to the baby, so is all the bacteria.
Thumbsucking: It’s only natural for a baby or toddler to suck their thumb or finger. Thumbsucking often starts in the womb and is extremely comforting for the child. Unfortunately, if your child is still sucking their thumb when the permanent teeth start to come through, this can cause problems. The teeth may become misaligned, affecting the child’s bite.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: Your child’s teeth are at risk even before they have pushed through the gum. These teeth are just as vulnerable to cavities and other problems and the same care needs to be taken. As their teeth push through, start brushing them gently with a child’s toothbrush and water each day. Avoid giving your baby or child sugary drinks and don’t let them sleep with their bottle.
Malocclusion (Bad Bite): If the permanent teeth come through too crowded or misaligned, it can affect the child’s bite or cause the jaws to not come together properly. It is important to treat a malocclusion early as crooked teeth can be more prone to cavities and further issues in later life. These future problems include: some teeth wearing faster than others, protruding teeth at a greater risk of chipping and fractures, abnormal development of the growing jaw, and even problems with speaking and eating.
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