The First Tooth and Brushing Baby Teeth
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mother brushing baby's teeth

In May of 2001, the Office of the Surgeon General released its first ever report on oral health in America.* The findings revealed that:

  • Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease.
  • Millions of school hours are lost each year to dental-related issues.
  • Poor suffer twice as many dental problems than their affluent peers.

With statistics like these, it’s increasingly critical to place more importance on our children’s oral care routines.

Before the First Tooth

To help prevent the buildup of plaque bacteria that can lead to decay, pediatric dentists and pediatricians highly recommend regularly cleaning your newborn’s gums with a damp washcloth following feedings. In addition, take measures to prevent baby bottle tooth decay, a disease that occurs in 15 percent of children and causes severe, swift decay of baby teeth. To help prevent it, do not put your baby to bed with a bottle of formula or a sugary drink, such as juice. The possibility of tooth decay is directly related to the number of times that sweet things are in contact with the teeth (formula contains some sugar).

Brushing Baby Teeth

Around four months, a child usually begins to teethe. When the first tooth comes in, it’s time to start brushing and also set up a dentist appointment. Cavities, gingivitis and tooth decay are common problems associated with your child’s growing teeth. Brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day to help prevent decay and to help get your baby used to the recommended brushing time.

Do Babies Need Special Products?

Just as developing children require special attention, so do their teeth. Use a toothbrush with extra-soft bristles   until your child turns two to three, when it’s safe to switch to toothpaste with fluoride under your close supervision. When it comes to your baby, if you want to start training for using toothpaste in the future look for a cleanser that’s safe to swallow, fluoride-free and doesn’t contain artificial colors or preservatives. A fruity flavor and non-foaming formula help, too.

Look for products designed to meet a child’s needs at different stages, taking the following into consideration:

  • Dentition – The formation of the teeth and jaw
  • Dexterity – The ability to handle a toothbrush
  • Development – Emotional changes and interests

Other Children's Oral Care Statistics

  • Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease, five times greater than asthma and several times more common than hay fever.
  • Almost 20 percent of children between two and three have at least one untreated cavity before their first visit to the dentist at age four or five.
  • 50 percent of children have gingivitis.
  • Dental issues result in a loss of 51 million school hours each year.
  • Studies show that the dental cost for children who have their first dental visit before age one are 40 percent lower in the first five years than those who do not see a dentist until after their first birthday ($263 compared to $447).

*Visit to access the Surgeon General’s report.

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