Take Care of Your Baby's Oral Health Before Teeth Even Emerge

Your baby's teeth will allow your child to chew and speak properly, and when the time comes, they'll help guide the adult teeth into place. This is why it's so important to take care of those little baby teeth by brushing them and taking your child for dental checkups once the teeth emerge. But proper care of baby teeth should begin before your infant even gets their first teeth! Here are three ways to start taking excellent care of your infant's oral health before teething even starts.

Wipe the gums with a damp cloth.

After your infant is done nursing, get into the habit of wiping off his or her gums with a soft cloth that you've moistened with a little water. This will help rid the mouth of oral bacteria. It's important to keep levels of oral bacteria low so that when the teeth do arrive, they are not exposed to any more bacteria than necessary. (Oral bacteria can lead to tooth decay.) Wiping down your baby's gums also keeps the gums healthy, and healthy gums are important for healthy teeth! Plus, it gets your baby used to the idea of having his or her mouth touched and cleaned, which will make brushing those baby teeth so much easier when the time comes.

Get your baby used to going to bed without a bottle.

Sending your baby to bed with a bottle may ease them to sleep, but it's a dangerous habit to get into, especially once the teeth emerge. Milk and juice contain sugar, and when this sits on your baby's teeth all night, it feeds oral bacteria that can cause extensive tooth decay. (When this occurs, dentists often call the condition "baby-bottle tooth decay.") Get into the habit of putting your baby to bed without a bottle—or with a bottle of water only—now. This will keep levels of oral bacteria down and ensure good habits are in place once the baby teeth erupt.

Give your baby fluoridated water.

Once your baby is old enough that you're giving them water on occasion, make sure the water you provide is fluoridated. Fluoride is a mineral that's essential for building healthy tooth enamel. If your baby does not get enough, their baby teeth may be more prone to decay. Most municipal tap water is fluoridated, but check with your city or town authorities to make sure yours is. If you prefer to use bottled water, make sure the brand you buy contains fluoride, as many do not.

For more information about important oral health habits for children, talk to a children's dentist near you.