I kept my daughter's baby shoes, receiving blankets with spit-up stains, and books with her name written in the cover. I preserved her handprints and coloring book pages. In a box at the bottom of my closet, are all her baby teeth, carefully sealed in individual envelopes and labeled for the Tooth Fairy: "MY TOOF."
"People don't think they have to take care of their kids' baby teeth, because they get new ones anyway," begins Shannon, a dental hygienist, "but baby teeth are important because they hold space for the adult teeth. The roots of baby teeth guide the permanent teeth into place. Good baby teeth are necessary to maintain face shape and smiling, and for chewing and eating."
Shannon offers parents numerous ideas on how to care for our children's teeth and preserve the health and beauty of their smiles. She says dental care has to begin with the smallest children, long before they have a mouthful of pearly whites.
Beware of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
When liquids, including breast milk, pool in a child's mouth at night, the sugars in the milk or food combine with bacteria, and the decay process begins on teeth. It is important to wipe out the child's mouth before bedtime, and never put a baby to bed with a bottle, unless it contains only water.
Don't Share Spoons
Adults can experience Gingivitis, gum disease, or Periodontitis, which destroys the bones under teeth. The bacteria from an adult's teeth can be transferred to a child on shared spoons or utensils. Once that decay starts, the bacteria spread from tooth, to tooth, to tooth.
Brush Your Child's Teeth
Good dental habits start early, so parents should start brushing even the smallest child's gums and erupting teeth. An infant finger toothbrush is a small plastic or cloth brush that looks like a finger-puppet and removes excess liquid from the baby's mouth. As children get older, parents should teach them how to brush their own teeth, but don't use fluoride toothpaste, and watch that children don't swallow toothpaste. Ingesting too much fluoride can cause fluorisis, which discolors teeth.
The Healthy Smiles Project and the Healthy Teeth website offer games, activities, and coloring pages that help teach children to care for their own smiles. In Saving Smiles, Part Two, Shannon will share how to introduce your child to the dentist's office and how to prevent costly and painful problems in the future.
Children grow fast. Baby teeth don't last. They end up under pillows or in envelopes labeled "MY TOOF." Children need to learn proper dental care and maintenance. The memories of their smiles will last forever.
How have you helped your children learn to take care of their teeth?