Oral Health of Your Child Begins with You
Provided by Fred Fergerson, DDS

Dear Parents: Oral health of your child begins at birth and with you.

For children, the chance for tooth decay or a healthy smile begins with their parents. For very young children, parents must understand that their role is essential to prevent tooth decay and gingivitis (bleeding gums).

First is mouth cleaning. Start right at birth. Simply use a water-dampened cloth to wipe their gum pads, tongue, and other soft tissues. Do this several times each day. Once teeth appear, continue mouth cleaning with a brush or a clean cloth especially before bed. As children begin to brush their own teeth, parents must supervise mouth cleaning each day. Avoid fluoride toothpaste until their baby molars appear.

Second, it's very important to control bottle use. Know the difference between the bottle used for keeping your baby or toddler "happy" rather than feeding. Bottles should not be placed in the crib or bed. Tooth decay can happen with milk, juice, nutritional supplement or any liquid that has a "sugar" (read labels for sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose etc). Fruit juices (even natural) have can harm your child's teeth.

I know that parents will use the bottle as a pacifier to calm or help their child sleep even if they are aware of the danger. Children should be weaned from the bottle by 12 months of age unless there is a medical reason. If you breast nurse your baby at will and especially if your baby sleeps with you and nurses at will, tooth decay can happen.

You should consider weaning your baby from the bottle beginning at six months of age. If you feel the need to use the bottle in their crib or want to wean your baby from the bottle, here are three choices.

  • 1. Throw the bottle away (if your child is able to drink from a cup).
  • 2. Use only water for the crib bottle or the "outside the house bottle".
  • 3. Today, replace one ounce of the bottle liquid with water, tomorrow use 2 ounces water, third day use 3 ounces. By four days, an 8 once bottle will have half water and half milk or juice etc. Continue by replacing one half ounce of water each day. This can take 2-3 weeks.
Choose the best method for you. Also, dilute fruit juice in sip cups.

Third, parents especially the primary caretaker, must know that if they have tooth decay and bleeding gums, the germs that cause these mouth problems will be passed in their saliva to their children. This happens through normal activities of child-care (i.e. sharing spoons, their hands to your mouth, kissing their hands etc).

Thus, lack of daily mouth care for your child, over use of bottles or breast nursing, and the presence of mouth problems in parents are primary concerns for common oral problems in young children.

Good mouth care is an investment in your baby's health and future. If you want more information about your role in your child's oral health and development, please visit http://www.AboutSmiles.com.

Last updated:  February 8, 2000


NP Central
10024 S.E. 240th St., Suite #102, Kent, WA 98031
Phone: 253.852.9042 Fax: 253.852.7725
NP Central Gateway http://www.npcentral.net/

Use of this section indicates you agree to the Terms of Use.
Copyright 1994-2003 NP Central