Tooth decay is the most common preventable chronic disease among children in the United States. If left untreated, it can negatively affect a child’s physical and social development, as well as his school performance.
Did you know you can start to clean your baby’s teeth and gums as soon as he is born? Here are some tips from the American Dental Association (ADA):
• Before your baby has teeth, wipe the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
• Most babies get their first tooth at around 6 months. It is important to remember that as soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. So once your baby has teeth, start brushing them.
• Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and ask your baby’s dentist if you should be using a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
• Teeth should be brushed twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or health care provider. Once your child is old enough to brush on his own (or wants to give it a try) make sure you watch him closely.
• As soon as he has two teeth that touch, you can begin flossing daily.
Once your baby’s first tooth comes in, it is time to schedule a trip to the dentist. The ADA recommends that the first dental visit take place within six months after the first tooth appears, but no later than a child’s first birthday. Although the dentist will check your baby’s mouth, teeth, and gums, this visit is really more about getting your child comfortable with the dentist.
When it is time to schedule your child’s first dental appointment, you can ask your dentist if she sees children. If not, you can find a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating babies, children and teens. Also, all children enrolled in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have coverage for dental services – including check-ups, x-rays, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, fillings, and more. Check out your state’s complete list of dental benefits for children in Medicaid and CHIP.
You can read more about your baby’s dental health on our website. Starting healthy dental habits early will help protect your baby’s teeth for a lifetime.