Healthy teeth for tots

  • Published
  • By Capt. (Dr.) John Mallya
  • 22nd Aerospace Medical Squadron dental flight
Dental caries, commonly known as a cavity, is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world.

In order for caries to occur you need three things: the presence of cariogenic bacteria, a susceptible tooth surface and a nutritive source for the bacteria. Dental caries can be avoided by removing or disrupting one of these factors. Listed below are some tips recommended by the American Dental Association on how parents can help their infants and toddlers avoid early childhood cavities.

Developing dental hygiene
Remove plaque often and early. Remember, it is never too early to start good oral care habits. The ADA recommends using a moist gauze pad or washcloth to wipe a baby's gums clean, after each feeding, to remove food particles and accustom your child to having their mouth cleaned, even before your child's first tooth appears in the mouth.
We recommend that parents use a little water and a small soft bristled toothbrush to clean their child's teeth when they begin to erupt. As your child grows, encourage them to brush on their own, but keep in mind that children do not have the dexterity to do adequate brushing before age eight. Regarding toothpaste, only a pea-sized amount is needed. Do not use fluoride containing toothpastes until your child is able to spit it out after brushing.

Avoid "sugary" drinks
Infants should not be put to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water. Please remember, milk, formula, fruit juice and sweetened liquids (soda, etc.) contain sugars and acids associated with "baby bottle caries."

Encourage your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday. Offer them water in between meals and monitor their intake of sugary snacks.

Dental visits
The ADA recommends having your child visit the dentist within the first six months following theĀ eruption of their first tooth. During this first visit, your dentist can provide oral hygiene instructions and recommended oral care products, fluoride supplements as required and check for any developing dental problems. These first visits are usually quick and easy, and can encourage a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.

For more information please visit or visit your dentist.