Babies do not need to have teeth for their oral health to be taken care of, this can start while they are in the womb.
Caring for oral health at an early age is key to avoiding the onset of cavities and gum disease. As part of its public policy on early childhood development, the Ministry of Health suggests that mothers can begin to care for the oral health of their babies while they are pregnant by increasing their consumption of calcium, a nutrient that is beneficial to teeth and bones.
The ministry also suggests visiting the dentist while the baby is a newborn so that dental professionals can identify any potential issues in their oral health and so the mother can learn about oral health care. (Read also: Prevent respiratory disease in premature babies).
Tips for oral hygiene:
Breast-feed. Breast milk helps the muscles, bones and tissues of the mouth to develop properly.
- Clean babies’ gums as soon as they are born using silicone finger brushes. This helps develop a habit for their hygiene. It is best to do this at nights before they go to sleep.
- When their first tooth comes (at about 6 months), start practicing oral hygiene twice a day. This can be done with a piece of gauze that has been moistened with water.
- Avoid using pacifiers and teethers since they inhibit breastfeeding and cause changes in the structures of the mouth. When it is time to start adding new foods, try using spoons, glasses, straws, droppers or syringes.
- If you choose to use a bottle, do not let your baby fall asleep with it in its mouth and always do a daily cleaning at night, as the food residue left on the teeth trigger the onset of cavities that can cause pain, reluctance to eat and nutritional problems.