February is National Dental Health Month. At Infant Crisis Services, we know that dental health should start early. Throughout the month of February, a table is set up in our lobby to educate parents about the importance of dental care. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 40% of children have tooth decay by the time they enter kindergarten. Infants in low income families are 32 times more likely to have cavities or early tooth decay.
Here are five things you should be doing to help ensure you're baby's smile will stay healthy into adulthood.
1. Brush that tooth. As soon as your infant sprouts his first pearly white, it's time to invest in his first tooth brush. Using a soft bristle brush that is the appropriate size for your baby's mouth and water, gently scrub that tiny tooth twice a day.
2. Say goodbye to the bottle when you say goodnight to your baby. Putting your baby to bed with a bottle allows sugary juice or formula to linger in your baby's mouth long which can lead to cavities and tooth decay. It is also a primary cause of thrush.
3. Opt for less juice during the day. Fruit juice contains a lot of sugar, and sugar causes cavities. Always water down your toddler's juice and use no more than 4-6 ounces of juice a day. And no soft drinks!
4. See a dentist. It is very important to start routine dental checkups by the age of 12 months. A dentist can do a dental health risk assessment and provide education for parents to ensure your baby's teeth stay strong. There are plenty of resources for families who do not have dental coverage. Visit www.kidsoralhealthok.org for information.
5. Ditch the pacifier and thumb sucking. I know this is a hard one for many parents. Extended use of a pacifier or sucking the thumb can lead to long-term orthodontic problems that could be very expensive to repair.