Creating a good oral health routine from when your children are babies is very important. Here we discuss our top 10 oral health tips for babies and toddlers, helping you to ensure they develop beautiful, healthy smiles.
1. Breastfeeding is best for babies
In the first 6 months of your baby’s life, breast milk or infant formula provides all the nourishment they need. Once your baby has finished feeding, it’s important to remove them from the breast or bottle.
2. Don’t put your baby to sleep with a bottle
When babies fall asleep with a bottle, some of the milk remains in their mouth and on their teeth. Because this can cause tooth decay, and also increase the risk of choking and ear infection, it’s recommended that they don’t take the bottle to bed.
3. Introduce a cup from 6 months of age
Between 6 and 12 months, your baby can progress from drinking from a bottle to a cup. In fact, when toddlers reach the age of 12 months, they should only drink from a cup.
4. Water is the best drink for your toddler
Water should be your toddler’s go-to drink, making sure they drink tap water throughout each day. For babies aged under 12 months, tap water should be boiled and cooled before drinking.
Shepparton and most of Victoria’s tap water is fluoridated, which helps protect teeth from decay. In contrast, most shop-bought bottled water doesn’t contain fluoride.
5. Plain milk is also a healthy drink choice
Milk is a good source of calcium which helps make teeth strong and healthy. While babies under 12 months should be drinking breastmilk or infant formula, children aged 1 to 2 years can drink plain full fat cow’s milk.
After 2 years of age, low-fat milk is suitable. Note that flavoured milk may have added sugar which can cause tooth decay.
6. Babies and toddlers don’t need fruit juice or sweet drinks
Fruit juice and sweet drinks can cause tooth decay and are not recommended for children under 12 months. Important to note, fruit juice with ‘no added sugar’ still contains natural sugar, which can also cause tooth decay. Also, diet soft drinks contain acids which can also damage teeth.
Sweet drinks that should be avoided include soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks, cordial, tea drinks, fruit drinks and energy drinks.
7. Healthy meals and snacks are important for healthy teeth
From 12 month of age, children should be enjoying a wide variety of healthy foods, similar to the rest of the family’s diet. They learn about eating food from watching their parents and other family members and so it’s important to set a good example and create healthy habits.
Another interesting fact is that babies don’t have a preference for sweetness. With many common foods containing sugar, it’s actually something they become accustomed to when they consume sweet foods and drinks regularly.
8. Start cleaning your baby’s teeth when they appear
As your baby’s teeth erupt, you can begin cleaning them by wiping them with a soft cloth or brushing with a small toothbrush and water. At 18 months, you can begin using a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste to brush your child’s teeth. Make sure they spit out the toothpaste after brushing but do not rinse.
Children will need an adult to help them brush their teeth and gums twice a day until they reach 7 to 8 years old.
9. Book your child in for an oral health assessment at or before 2 years of age
Your toddler’s first oral health assessment can be provided by a dentist, oral health professional, child health nurse or doctor. Beginning regular check-ups from the age of 2 enables any dental problems to be identified early and treated in its early stages. Contact Knight Street Dentists, Shepparton to make an appointment.
10. Oral health is important for the whole family
Babies are not born with the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Did you know that often parents and carers pass this bacteria to babies? To help prevent this, we recommend that:
- Everyone in the family brushes their teeth twice a day with their own toothbrush.
- Everyone (including pregnant women) have a regular dental checkup so that any tooth decay can be promptly treated.
- Try to avoid putting anything in your baby’s mouth if it’s been in your mouth. For example, sharing spoons or cleaning dummies by putting them in your mouth.