A thorough check-up of your baby's overall physical health is a central part of pediatric and family medicine.
Make sure that the health of your child's teeth are part of the examination.
A dentist should check your baby's teeth and mouth (oral health) within six months of the first tooth breaking through the gums - or by one year of age at the latest.
At this first visit, the dentist will examine your baby's mouth. He (or she) will also explain how you should take care of your baby's teeth and mouth, and talk to you about your baby's diet.
Your child's dentist can find any early signs of tooth (or dental) decay and other problems at this time and treat them.
Tooth decay is an infectious disease that can happen when bacteria in the mouth interacts with the sugars present in milk and fruit juices. This process produces acids that can be destructive to teeth.
When a baby is awake, the continuous flow of saliva in his mouth dilutes the sugars and washes them off the surfaces of the teeth.
Because there is much less saliva in the baby's mouth when he sleeps, the sugars can concentrate on the surfaces of the teeth. This environment is friendly to bacteria and acid production.
You can prevent tooth decay with proper hygiene: making sure you clean your baby's teeth after a feeding, rather than letting your baby fall asleep right after.
One of the best ways to clean your baby's gums is to wipe them with a damp gauze sponge immediately after a feeding.
This removes food material from the gums, and reduces the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
You should keep following this routine when your baby's teeth first start to erupt.
Since your baby will get used to this simple cleaning routine, it will be easier to introduce a toothbrush later on.
We already know that toothpaste and tap water that contain fluoride reduce the incidence of dental decay. Fluoride is used widely in toothpaste and in municipal drinking water.
Too much fluoride, however, can cause unsightly discolouration on the enamel of your child's teeth. This is called fluorosis.
Mild dental fluorosis looks like white flecks on the surface of the tooth. In more severe cases, brown mottling appears on the teeth.
There are several sources of fluoride: municipal water supplies, toothpaste, vitamin supplements, and fruit drinks and juices (especially if they have been bottled with fluoridated water).