- 1 What is Infants’ Oral Health Care?
- 2 Importance of oral health care for infants
- 3 Mouth care for infants
- 4 Baby tooth and gum infection
- 5 Common oral diseases of infants
- 6 Good and bad foods for oral health
What is Infants’ Oral Health Care?
Oral health care for infants includes all the measures taken to avoid diseases in the mouth of babies 0-12 months of age. Aside from prevention measures, it also covers management and treatment of existing diseases of the gums, lips, palates, tongue and teeth. Oral health is not limited to the condition of the teeth alone, but it includes all the accessory organs contained inside the mouth.
An outstanding oral health means that your infant is free from all pain and abnormal conditions of the different parts of the mouth.
Importance of oral health care for infants
The mouth is used in several functions which include eating, speaking and smiling. Giving attention to the oral health of your infant will ensure that she will be able to do these functions without pain or difficulty. Here is a list of the reasons why you should take the oral health of your infant seriously.
- The mouth is the entry of food. So any disturbance in the integrity of the mouth has a direct effect on the nutrition of your baby thus affecting his growth and development.
- Abnormal oral conditions may cause irregular speech pattern and delay in speech development. Since the organs inside the mouth are all necessary for speaking, abnormal conditions in them will affect the ability of the child to talk.
- Healthy gums of the infant serve as a foundation for healthy teeth to grow. If you will not take care of your infant’s gums, the health of the growing teeth will be compromised.
- Oral health diseases can lead to more serious illnesses. Several pieces of research support the link between gum and heart health. The gums are full of blood vessels and your mouth is thriving with millions of bacteria. If your gums get broken because of deficiency or disease, bacteria may enter the bloodstream through your gums. Your body will respond to the bacterial contamination by inflammation which may eventually lead to heart attack.
- Healthy primary teeth will serve as a guide for the permanent teeth to grow. If your child’s primary teeth get destroyed at an early age, there will be no guide for the permanent teeth. This can cause abnormally aligned teeth.
- Your infant’s oral health will have an impact even when he becomes an adult. The appearance and health of your child’s teeth and mouth will have implications on his self-esteem and health when he grows up.
Mouth care for infants
As soon as a baby is born, you should already start taking good care of his oral cavity. Here are the ways you can do to ensure that your child’s mouth remains healthy.
- To prepare for baby’s first tooth which usually erupts at around 6 months, start cleaning the gums with a wet sterile cloth to avoid build-up of milk deposits. Do this once a day starting at 5 months. It will also prepare your baby for brushing routine when his teeth erupt.
- Keep an eye on your baby so he will not put dirty and sharp objects inside his mouth. Babies’ have the natural tendency to put whatever they hold inside their mouth. Pointed objects can puncture their mouth and dirty objects can introduce bacteria and viruses.
- Frequently wash the hands of your baby or clean them with wipes. You cannot stop the baby from putting his hands in his mouth so it is best to make sure that his hands are always clean.
- Your baby should have his first dental visit by his first birthday. During the visit, the dentist will be able to see if your child is at greater risk for developing cavities. Knowing the chances will allow you to take preventive measures properly.
It is also ideal for the dentist to inspect your one-year-old’s oral cavity to check for any abnormality which will only be identified by an expert.
- Do not let your baby sleep with a bottle. Making this a habit will put your baby at risk of developing dental caries early.
- Do not share eating utensils with your child and do not kiss your child on the lips. These practices may cause transfer of bacteria to your infant.
- Start brushing once a tooth appears. Here are the proper ways to brush your baby’s teeth.
- Brush two times a day; one in the morning and one before bedtime.
- Use a toothbrush specially made for babies. Babies’ toothbrushes have soft bristles with handles that are flexible.
- If your baby does not know how to voluntarily spit up, you may not put toothpaste first. Put rice-grain-sized pediatric fluoridated toothpaste once your baby learns how to expel toothpaste.
- Brush the teeth, tongue, and gums of your baby gently. Give emphasis on the junction between gums and teeth. The adult should brush the infant from behind while supporting the head.
- Change the toothbrush every three months or if it starts to get worn out.
- To ease the pain of erupting teeth, give clean and cold teething rings.
- Avoid giving sweetened drinks and food to your baby. Bacteria that cause dental caries love to feed on sugary foods. Do not give fruit juices in a bottle. If you want to give fruit juice, use a sippy cup or spoon instead.
- Always check the teeth of your child. If there are spots or unusual growth, consult a pediatric dentist right away.
- If your water is not supplemented with fluoride, ask your doctor about fluoride supplementation. Fluoride is important in preventing tooth decay.
- Always wash your hands before holding your baby. Most of the oral diseases are transferred from adults.
Baby tooth and gum infection
What are baby tooth and gum infection?
This condition is also known as a tooth abscess. It is a build-up of fluid caused by germs inside the tooth. The pus forms as a mechanism of the immune system when there is a bacterial infection. Tooth and gum infection in babies usually starts as tooth decay.
What are the symptoms of baby tooth infection?
- Severe pain on infected part
- Affected tooth becomes darker in shade
- Inflammation of gums
- Unpleasant taste in mouth
Why should you take tooth and gum infection in infants seriously?
The immune system of babies is not mature yet so they are more prone to tooth and gum infection. The condition will not heal without proper treatment. You must go to a dentist to treat the infection and prevent it from getting worse.
Common oral diseases of infants
Oral thrush is an infection in the mouth commonly seen in infants. It is caused by the fungi Candida. When the infant’s mouth is infected by oral thrush, sores develop on his lips, gums or tongue. The sores of oral thrush are whitish and soft.
Oral thrush may be healed on its own within two weeks even without treatment. However, you need to consult a physician if it lasts longer than two weeks or if it interferes with feeding.
Early Childhood Caries (ECC)
ECC is used to define the type of dental caries in infants and young children. It is also known as baby bottle tooth decay. It commonly affects the upper front teeth but it can also affect other teeth. This condition is caused by prolonged and recurrent exposure of infant’s teeth to sugar. Signs and symptoms include yellow, brown or black cavities, pain and difficulty eating.
The risk for ECC starts as soon as the first tooth erupts. Unmanaged ECC can lead to destruction of primary teeth within 6 months from onset. It may also lead to infection.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
This condition is a viral infection caused by Coxsackie. It is another common disease in infants usually occurring during summer and autumn. Signs and symptoms include fever, headache, skin rashes, and small, painful lesions inside the mouth. The rashes develop on the palms of the hands and soles of feet.
It is contagious so it is your responsibility as a parent or caregiver to prevent the disease from spreading if there are family members who are sick with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. The virus spreads through saliva and stool so it is important to keep everything that your baby puts in his mouth clean. Hand washing and proper oral hygiene is the best way to keep this disease from spreading.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease does not have a cure and it goes away on its own. Antibacterial medicines will not help because this is a viral infection. If your child gets infected, do measures to relieve the symptoms and stop the virus from spreading further.
Cold has a numbing effect so you may give cold drinks to relieve the pain from mouth sores. You can also give acetaminophen to manage fever and pain. Do not try to pop the lesions because it will only make things worse. The lesions will heal without treatment.
Good and bad foods for oral health
Starting at six months, you may begin introducing solid foods to your child. Consider the safety and benefits of the food you are giving. There are foods which compromise the health of your infant’s oral cavity while there are foods that strengthen them.
Aside from breastmilk which is good for the overall health of your baby, here are other foods that are good for your infant’s oral cavity.
Yogurt is rich in calcium and protein which are necessary nutrients for your infant’s teeth development. It also contains good bacteria which are helpful in preventing harmful bacteria to proliferate.
The consistency and texture of yogurt are perfect for your infant who is still trying to learn to eat solid foods. Take note to choose plain yogurt without added sugar.
You can give slices of apples once your baby has enough set of teeth to chew with. If not, you can blend it so it is easier for your child to eat. Fruits are exemptions when it comes to avoiding sweet foods. The nutrients your infant will get from apple outweigh the sugar content. It is best to let your child eat it as fruit instead of letting him drink it as juice. Apples are rich in fiber and vitamins.
Chewing an apple stimulates saliva production which washes bacteria and food debris. The vitamins from apple strengthen your baby’s teeth and gums.
Cucumber naturally removes plaque from teeth when your baby chews it. It is also loaded with water and vitamins which prevent tooth and gum diseases.
These foods must be avoided, or even completely banned from your infant’s diet.
Caramel, gummy candies and other sticky sugary foods are your infants’ teeth enemy. They are sweet and they easily stick to the teeth. They also can’t be removed easily which might cause cavities if not brushed properly.
This should never be introduced to your infant. It is unhealthy for your baby’s mouth and overall health. Sodas are rich in sugar and acid; a combination which is very destructive to your infant’s teeth. High acidic content in your infant’s mouth can destroy the enamel of your infant’s teeth. When the enamel is damaged, your child will be more prone to dental caries.
- Starchy Foods
Foods like chips and fries are easily stuck between teeth. Even if they don’t taste sweet, they are being converted into sugar by the bacteria and digestive enzymes in the saliva. Food debris stuck between teeth also puts your infant at risk to develop tooth decay.
Oral health for infants is important because it has long-lasting implications. Because they mouth is the entry point for food, its health affects the whole body.
You should be careful about what your baby puts inside his mouth. You should make sure that they are clean and healthy. Diseases of the mouth can be prevented by good diet and good oral hygiene practices. However, diseases are inevitable. If your child develops a mouth disease, it is best to consult a physician.