Infant Dental Care Explained for Dads

The most prevalent infectious disease in our children is dental caries (also known as decay or cavities). It is imperative to begin finding a “dental home” for a child at an early age to start the education and prevention process. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends your child’s first dental visit by age 1.

Educating dads about how cavities are formed and what contributes to that process helps prevention.

How does a cavity form? Bacteria in the mouth, specifically, mutans streptococci use sugars to grow and produce acid as a by-product. This acid, over time, demineralizes the tooth and thus becomes a cavity. Significant growth of the bacteria occurs after the teeth start to erupt (traditionally at 6-8 months) because the teeth provide a surface adherence. Thus, decreasing the sugar intake in your baby's diet as well as minimizing bacterial counts are two ways to prevent cavities.

How is cavity prevention accomplished at the infant stage?

  • Diet: During infancy, children gain nourishment primarily by breast milk or formula, or a combination thereof. Both breast milk and formula contain sugars; therefore, after tooth eruption (6-8 months), dads  should avoid sending their infant to bed with a bottle. This will reduce the constant supply of sugars to the bacteria in their mouth. Ad lib feedings throughout the night are associated with a higher risk of cavity formation. Furthermore, avoiding juice intake will also decrease cavity risk.
  • Oral Hygiene: Oral hygiene measures can be started immediately for your infant. Oral infant wipes can be used daily to clean the inside of the mouth and tongue of formula/breast milk. Then, as your child’s teeth begin to erupt at 6-8 months of age, toothbrushing should be incorporated into your child’s care routine. Parents should brush their child’s teeth twice daily using an age-appropriate toothbrush and a correct amount of FLUORIDATED toothpaste. No more than a smear layer of fluoridated toothpaste should be used for children under age 3. Children age 3 to 6 may use a pea-sized amount. It is expected that children under age 6 will swallow the toothpaste, thus it is important to use the correct amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Controlled correct usage of a fluoride toothpaste strengthens the enamel of developing teeth and can re-mineralize existing teeth. Using excess amounts beyond these guides can cause a condition known as fluorosis, which weakens the enamel.
  • Establishing a Dental Home: Finding a pediatric dentist by age 1 will allow you to establish a relationship with a dental provider where your child can receive a complete dental examination along with preventive and educational guides help maintain optimal dental health.
  • Here are suggestions for finding a pediatric dentist:

  • Consult your pediatrician
  • Seek referrals from other parents
  • Ask your general dentist
  • Check out the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
  • See if your children's school has recommendations
  • Posted by John Riehs

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