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Baby and toddler dental health

Long before your child's permanent teeth appear, good dental care is essential

Posted: 14 October 2009
by Sarah Lawson

When babies give us a gummy smile, it's easy to think that we don't need to worry about their dental care beyond helping them get through teething without too many tears. However, there's a lot you can be doing to help the long-term health of your child's teeth and ultimately keep those dentist appointments (and costs) down to a minimum.

A good diet for shining teeth
Babies have no taste for sugary food so don't give it to them.
It's naive to think you can guide an infant through childhood without the genuine delight of candy and chocolate, but put this off as long as possible and most definitely until they are at least one year old.
Naturally-sweet foods like carrot, raisins and banana add all the variety a child's diet needs when weaning and moving on to first meals. (NEVER give honey as a food or as a sugar substitute to a baby under one year old.)
Make sure, as your child's diet develops, that you are keeping up his calcium and vitamin D intake, as these are both good nutrients for bone and teeth health.

Using dummies and cups
General advice suggests that using a feeding bottle beyond one year old can affect a baby's speech and dental health. If however, your baby still enjoys either breast or cow's milk from this once or twice a day, drinking it straight down and associating it with the restful routines of nap time or bed, then you won't have a real problem on your hands. Do avoid allowing your child to drink anything other than milk or cool, boiled water from a bottle before or after one year old, however. Sweet drinks like fruit juice can hold in the mouth if taken via a dummy or bottle.
Try to get your child into drinking from a cup as early as you can.

Getting into the teeth cleaning routine
It isn't easy persuading your child to brush his teeth. After all, hectic morning and evening routines are fraught with tiredness and other chores which need to get done. But from the appearance of the first teeth, some cleaning is required, even if you need to offer a patient helping hand for a few years to come!

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