Infant Oral Health

As a parent you have the opportunity to help your baby achieve optimum oral health. Your early efforts are important to ensure a healthy future. The best time to start your child?s preventative dental program is when either the eight front teeth have erupted or by their first birthday. At that time you should schedule an infant care exam. Then as partners we can work toward your child?s best health and development.
Facts About Your Baby?s Teeth
  • When your baby is born, the first set of teeth is almost completely formed inside the jaws and under the gums. At this time the permanent teeth are just beginning to form.
  • Your baby?s first set of teeth are important for the following reasons: chewing of food, esthetics, helping in speech development, saving space for the permanent teeth to grow in straight and stimulating proper jaw and bite development.
  • Fluoride is one of the most important factors in preventing tooth decay. Because the amount of fluoride in water varies with each community and with different sources of drinking water, we will assess each child to help you make a decision regarding fluoride supplementation.
  • From birth you should keep your baby?s mouth clean and their teeth clean as soon as they erupt.
The eruption of teeth is sometimes associated with symptoms and is referred to as ?teething?. Symptoms of sore gums, restlessness, irritability and disruption of eating and sleeping habits may be present, which may upset the digestive system, resulting in loose stools. However, serious health problems do not arise from teething. A sick child should be evaluated by a physician and not be passed off as ?just teething?. If your baby experiences difficulties please ask us for advice for proper management.
Dental Cleaning
Even before your baby has teeth you should clean inside of the mouth. To do this, use either a wet 2x2 gauze or a wet washcloth. Massage and wash inside the lips and cheeks, all around the tongue, the roof of the mouth and all along the upper and lower gum pads where the teeth will form later.

As soon as the teeth erupt, bacteria begins to accumulate in the mouth and may combine with sugar to form acid. The cleaning of an infant?s teeth should begin as soon as the first tooth erupts. The teeth can be wiped with a piece of gauze or a clean washcloth initially. When your child has adjusted to the routine of daily teeth cleaning, a small toothbrush should be introduced. It is important to clean the teeth at least two times per day? once in the morning and once right before sleep. As more teeth erupt, flossing may or may not be required, depending upon the presence or absence of spaces.
Your Baby?s Diet
Once teeth have erupted, the bacteria present can produce acid from the sugars that are present in the diet. Frequent sugar intake and sugary foods that remain in the mouth for prolonged periods of time are the greatest causes of tooth decay.

  • Bottle Feeding - Both formula and milk contain sugar which can be harmful once teeth start erupting. It is important to avoid letting your baby develop the habit of sleeping with a bottle at night or at nap-time. The bottle should be used for feeding purposes only and should not be used as a pacifier.
  • Breast Feeding - While you are nursing it is important to maintain a well-balanced diet. The severe form of tooth decay called ?Nursing Caries?, which results from improper use of the bottle, can occur with improper breast feeding practices as well. Once teeth have erupted it is important to follow a reasonable feeding schedule and to avoid prolonged feedings such as allowing the child to nurse at night.
  • Fruit Juices - it is best to avoid prolonged exposure to fruit juices. A good suggestion is that as soon as your child can drink from a cup, to allow juice only in a cup, not a bottle. This will also be a positive motivator for perfecting drinking from a cup.
  • Solid Food and Snacks - When you begin to introduce your baby to solid foods it is important to choose foods carefully. Dietary habits and preferences are established during the first few years. It is important to avoid foods that contain large amounts of sugar. Vegetables and fruit contain all the natural sugar your baby needs. The ingredients listed on commercial baby food labels appear in order of usage. Therefore it is easy to select store-bought foods that do not include added sugar. If you prepare your own foods, do not add sugar or salt.
Snacks for toddlers and older children should be low in sugar and should not be sticky foods that remain in the mouth for long periods of time, such as chewy candies, raisins and fruit rollups. Foods such as vegetables, fruits, cheese and unsweetened fruit juices are readily accepted by children who have not previously formed the habit of eating snacks that can cause cavities such as sticky, chewy candies, hard sucking candies and sweetened soft drinks.
Oral Habits
  • Thumb and/or Finger Sucking - Sucking is a natural and normal desire and need for the infant. Considerable satisfaction is derived during the first year of life, and should not be discouraged if the infant has chosen to do so. Problems only occur if the habit persists too long. If we see any effect on oral development later on, we can help with recommendations for positive management.
  • Pacifiers - A pacifier is not necessary for every child. Controversy exists concerning whether a thumb or pacifier is best. The decision is up to the parent or in many cases the infant. If you do choose to use a pacifier do not place any sweets, honey, etc. on it.
Dental Injuries
Falls, bumps and bruises are a normal part of the growing up process of infants and young children. Injuries to the mouth and teeth are quite common between the ages of 12 and 18 months, when the infant is learning to walk. Any injury which causes bleeding that doesn’t stop readily or that results in tooth fractures or teeth being moved out of place should be evaluated. Frequently, all that will be required following an injury is close observation. However, this can only be determined by having the injury examined.

Cheryl Kelley, DMD Pediatric Dentistry | 370 White Spruce Blvd. | Rochester, NY, 14623
Phone: (585) 424-5005 | Fax: (585) 475-0096 | e-mail: