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Baby's dental hygiene

Gums hygiene, and later care for baby's milk teeth, influence the development of speech and occlusion, as well as a general condition of his tiny body. Correct oral hygiene will help to avoid dental problems now and in the future. Read how to prevent problems with teeth.
Paulina Heromińska, consultation Aleksandra Łada, NDT SLT Senior Tutor, clinical speech therapist | 20 March 2014
Aleksandra Łada
clinical speech therapist

Healthy teeth do not only mean pleasant appearance and no ailments related to them. The condition of our teeth and gums influences internal organs and can result in diseases and inflammatory foci in the body. For teeth to last throughout one's life, you should care for them right from the start.

When we were children, nobody really cared about milk teeth. They grew when their time came, and fell out also when their time came, sometimes they were helped in that by a thread tied to a door. Then permanent teeth grew, which required proper care. This meant brushing them twice a day, with any cavities filled. Nowadays, we know much more about causes of teeth and periodontium diseases, as well as possible factors causing occlusion defects. And, as an old truth says: prevention is better than treatment.

Before teeth appear

Tooth buds are formed already during the fetal life. Therefore, the diet of the future mum is very important; it should not be deficient in phosphorus and calcium, as they are main components of teeth structure. The mum should not avoid dairy products, nuts, fish, and pulses, and she should take recommended vitamin supplements. They are needed by the baby, as well as crucial for woman's health, because the baby can supplement his deficiencies by using resources available in mum's body. If the woman does not provide enough calcium for herself and her baby, she can have problems with osteoporosis in the future.

First brush

If you want your baby to have a beautiful, and therefore, healthy smile for long, first you should think about his oral hygiene. Diseases of gums and milk teeth are a threat to permanent teeth. Caries will not disappear with milk teeth. So from the very beginning, you should clean first baby's gums, and later his milk teeth.

  • You will encourage the baby to brush his teeth with your own example. Brush teeth together, and the baby will reach for a brush willingly.

  • When the baby does not want to brush his teeth, do not threaten him with a visit to a dentist. Let the oral hygiene become a normal aspect of daily life, like a walk, eating or playing.

At the beginning, a gauze swab dipped in boiled water or a soft silicone brush inserted on your fingertip suffices. Clean gums delicately, not forgetting about cleaning the tongue. This not only promotes health, but the baby becomes accustomed to procedures related to oral hygiene.

When the first teeth appear, you should invest in a brush and toothpaste. You must read producer's recommendations, as not every brush and paste can be used by a baby. His gums are delicate, and the paste can be harmful for the baby still unable to spit it out. At the beginning you should select fluorine-free paste for babies, and change it to one with fluorine later, when the child can spit it out.

Put the pea-size amount of paste on the brush and thoroughly brush baby's teeth with a sweeping out movements. Baby's teeth should be brushed after each meal, or at least twice a day, in the morning after breakfast and in the evening after the last meal.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important component of baby's diet, responsible for correct teeth mineralization. Breastfed babies do not receive it in sufficient quantities, so it should be supplemented. For babies fed with formula, a dose of vitamin D must be determined by a paediatrician.

Important diet

The diet of an older child should include foods rich in calcium. He should drink milk and eat dairy products made of processed milk. Worth recommending are natural yogurts, kefir, buttermilk, or hard cheese. Sugar should be avoided, as it promotes caries, so sweet drinks and snacks should be minimized. You must be particularly careful at night when saliva production is reduced and teeth are more exposed to damaging effect of bacteria.  So it is a good habit not to eat after last brushing of teeth, and when the child is thirsty, give him water and not juice or milk. Night time feeding should be limited, as it often causes caries.

At a dentist

It is a good idea to visit a dentist around first birthday of your child. The doctor will check first teeth, and find all anomalies, if present. The visit to a dentist is also important from a psychological point of view. A child who visits dentists regularly, is used to them, so there are no negative associations with such visits. Remember never to threaten the child with a visit to a dentist. It will probably not influence his hygienic habits, but can certainly leave him with an impression that a dentist is an evil's embodiment. It is very easy for caries to develop in milk teeth so you should visit your dentist regularly.

Problems with occlusion

You can prevent problems with occlusion. Usually, only when he is of school age a child goes to an orthodontist, who selects braces to be worn permanently or for several hours per day. It is better to implement some preventive measures earlier. Maybe not all defects will be prevented this way, but at least their risk will be reduced.

  • Breastfeed
    Breastfeeding is all good. The baby is provided with required nutrients, his immunity is strengthened, and he develops a close relationship with his mum. But there is even more to it. It is also an excellent exercise for baby's mouth. The correctly latched on baby has a better chance to develop correct occlusion.

  • Use correct teats
    When the baby is fed with a bottle, selection of a teat is of crucial importance. It should have a correct profile, with a wide, harder base and a flexible end, imitating woman's breast. It should elongate and return to its own shape during suckling. This way, it will engage muscles of the baby's mouth during suckling.

  • Limit the use of a teat as a pacifier
    The child should not spend a whole day with a pacifier in his mouth. Its excessive use can lead to occlusion defects, not mentioning problems with breaking this habit later. Limit time of its use to 2 hours a day, in emergency situations, when all other attempts to calm the child are unsuccessful.

  • Replace teats
    Frequent replacement of teats and pacifiers is necessary. Always replace teats when they are damaged, but not only then. Microdamages form in teats and pacifiers, which are invisible to a naked eye. Moreover, teats "grow" with the baby, their flow and size must be changed.

  • Teach your baby to drink from a cup
    Babies swallow in slightly different way than adults, pushing their tongue between gums. For them it is natural, but you should start to get the child accustomed to a cup already after the sixth month of his life. When the child is eight months old, start to use a cup without a spout: an open or a 360° cup. Drinking training requires time, but it is an important stage of the speech organ development.

  • Look after milk teeth
    There is no doubt that healthy milk teeth have a great influence on correct occlusion. Large cavities, e.g., caused by caries, can inhibit correct teeth set up in the mouth. Permanent teeth will not grow in  their correct places. A visit to a dentist is then necessary, to fill cavities so there is no empty space between teeth. So remember to visit a dentist regularly.

  • Clean nose
    With constantly blocked nose, cold, and infections the child breathes through his mouth with his jaw receded. This can also contribute to occlusion defects in the future. Treat all infections, and when the child has a cold, regularly clean his nose and hydrate it with saline. You should improve baby's general immunity, and then a cold will be a rare guest at your home.

    Aleksandra Łada,
    clinical speech therapist

    Correct dental condition and regular, careful hygienic in the mouth not only guarantee to your child a beautiful smile, but also well-being, social acceptance, comfort and lack of pain. Healthy teeth, gums and oral mucosa, and lack of occlusion defects ensure correct eating /particularly biting off, biting and chewing/ for everybody, forming foundations for future efficient articulation. Many speech defects and developmental disorders derive from anatomical or functional anomalies /e.g., feeding-related/ in the oral apparatus.

    Therefore, investment in oral hygiene and good dental care is an investment in correct development of your child's speech!


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