Your baby’s oral hygiene is an important factor in his overall health. Even though your baby may just be starting to get his first set of teeth, good oral hygiene can help reduce an excess of bacteria that leads to the development of gingivitis and periodontitis. Left untreated, gum diseases can cause tooth loss in both adults and children.
Your Baby’s Mouth
While your baby may let you know when he’s teething, other changes that take place in his mouth may be harder to detect. Good oral hygiene requires looking inside your baby’s mouth for any unusual changes. Oral thrush is a very common infection in infants. This overgrowth of yeast can affect anyone, but commonly appears in babies younger than six months. While oral thrush often disappears on its own, gum disease may progress.
Gingivitis and periodontitis are infections that damage your baby’s gums and the bones supporting his teeth. While oral thrush commonly appears as small white patches inside your his mouth, gingivitis causes swelling and redness along the affected areas of your baby’s gums. Although there is little discomfort during the mildest stages of gum disease, his gums may bleed easily. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, leading to an inflammatory response that may destroy the tissues and bones.
Good oral care can help prevent and reverse mild cases of gingivitis. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises starting to clean your baby’s gums at birth. Use an infant toothbrush or a damp cloth to rub his gums. Once your baby’s teeth appear, brush them twice each day with just a smear of toothpaste. When your child reaches two years of age, use a dollop of toothpaste the size of a pea to brush his teeth. Encourage him to spit the toothpaste out after brushing.
Avoid giving your baby bottles filled with sugary beverages, especially when laying him down to sleep. Sugary beverages remain on his teeth, causing erosion and decay.
The American Academy of Periodontology advises that periodontitis may be a manifestation of systematic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease. This type of periodontitis often begins at a young age. Contact your doctor if you think your baby may have an underlying illness that might contribute to his gum disease.
Schedule your baby’s first dental appointment when his first tooth comes in or by his first birthday, as advised by The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Early examination by a dentist can help prevent and treat early cases of gum disease.