Breastfeeding is the preferred method of infant feeding. It reduces the risk of baby tooth decay (dental caries) and early childhood tooth decay.
Early childhood tooth decay is generally caused by the inappropriate use of the baby bottle by filling it with fruit juice, soft drinks and/or cordial.
Feeding should always be done with adult supervision and the nursing bottle should be taken away when the infant has had enough.
Baby bottles should only be filled with breast milk, appropriate infant formula or boiled water.
Hold the baby when feeding with a bottle – do not put a baby to bed with a bottle.
Introduce a feeding cup and solid foods to the baby by 6 to 8 months.
Provide children with a variety of nutritious foods such as fruit, vegetables, natural yoghurt, legumes and meats.
Teething usually begins from approximately 6 months of age. Some children may feel discomfort as new teeth emerge. Possible signs of teething include:
Restlessness during the day and sleeplessness at night
Being fussy or choosy with food
Placing objects or fingers in mouth
Red and swollen gums which feel hard and pointed when pressed
For temporary relief, give your child something to bite on such as a teething ring. These could be stored in the fridge to keep them cool. Seek medical or oral health advice if symptoms continue.Dental check-ups
Take your child to see a dentist or other oral health professional as soon as the first tooth appears and no later than twelve months of age. Find a public dental clinic near you.Teeth cleaning
Thorough tooth cleaning with the correct technique is required for the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums. Good oral hygiene at an early age will reduce the likelihood of gum disease later in life.
As soon as your baby’s teeth appear, clean the baby teeth twice a day by wrapping a clean damp face washer or gauze around your finger and wiping each tooth front and back.
Use a low fluoride toothpaste from 18 months to 6 years of age (a pea sized amount is enough) and a soft, children’s toothbrush
Encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
Sucking on thumbs and fingers is normal behaviour for young babies. Most children should stop between 2 and 4 years of age. Your child’s teeth and the shape of their mouth may be affected if sucking persists after the eruption of adult teeth.
There are various things you can do to help your child to stop sucking his or her thumb:
Reward your child and offer encouragement to reinforce their decision to stop the habit.
Mark progress on a calendar by placing a star for each period that the child does not suck their thumb. Provide a reward if the child gets through the period successfully.
Encourage bonding with a special toy.
Reminders – give your child a mitten to wear, or place a band aid over the thumb at bedtime as a reminder not to suck.
Offer distractions – have toys available to keep your child occupied.
Serious tooth decay can happen if dummies are dipped in sugary substances such as honey, jam, condensed milk, malt or vitamin C syrups.
Sucking your child’s dummy can also increase the risk of tooth decay by transferring bacteria from your mouth to your child’s.
Dummies may be a source of infection if they are shared with other children or picked up from the floor. Follow good hygiene practices when using dummies and check that dummies are in good condition and meet safety approval ratings.
Overuse or incorrect use of a dummy, or prolonged use (beyond school age), may lead to mouth and dental problems such as:
Incorrect positioning of teeth – teeth may be pushed forward so that the bottom and top teeth at the front don’t meet properly.
Tooth decay (especially the front teeth) – if the dummy is dipped into sweet things before sucking.
Mouth breathing – your child may tend to breathe through their mouth rather than their nose. This is often linked to long-term dribbling.
Speech and language problems – your child may not use the full range of tongue movements that are necessary for making all the speech sounds and may have fewer opportunities to use sounds to communicate.
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