Oftentimes, we are so focused on having healthy teeth that we lose sight of our gum health. However, your gums are imperative to your oral health, and also play a larger role in the overall health of your body. In toddlers, healthy gums can help prevent the pain caused by teething and bacteria buildup. Great gum care can also give your child a head start on having healthy baby teeth. So, how can we ensure that our children’s gums stay clean?
1 – Keep their mouth debris-free
Toddler food is designed so that it can be eaten without teeth, making it mushy and sometimes sticky. It’s important to keep your toddler’s mouth free of any leftover food, which helps to prevent bacteria build-up and mouth soreness. To do this, simply wrap a sanitary gauze around your forefinger and dip it in clean water. Gently wipe your child’s gums clean of any leftover food. It’s good to this after each meal so that no food stays in their mouth past meal time. You can also do this around bath time with a clean wash cloth.
2 – Avoid the bedtime baby bottle
Parents often send their children to bed with a bottle. While this may be a great comfort for your toddler, it can be very destructive for their gums and developing teeth. When left in your children’s mouth, sugar from breast milk, formula and milk can lead to infection and pain. Try to establish a bedtime routine that doesn’t involve a baby bottle. If your child is insistent upon a bedtime bottle, fill it up with water, which improves their overall health and has no negative oral side effects.
3 – Keep a Clean Pacifier
Toddlers love the comfort of a pacifier, but parents should make sure that it stays clean. The proper way to sanitize a pacifier is by boiling it for a couple of minutes, or by running it through the dishwasher. For minor cleanups, simply rinse it with warm water for a few seconds. Avoid using your own mouth to clean your child’s pacifier, since you can transmit your own oral germs into your child’s mouth. Also, try to resist dipping their pacifier in anything sweet such as sugar, juice or formula to prevent unhealthy sugar buildup.
4 – Ease into brushing
Begin brushing your children’s teeth as soon as they emerge. Since they don’t understand the importance of spitting out toothpaste, make sure that you use unfluoridated toothpaste. With toddlers, only use a smear of toothpaste – about the size of a grain of rice – to brush their teeth.
5 – Begin flossing
You may think that flossing is only for those with a mouth full of teeth, but we recommend that you begin flossing your children’s teeth as soon as they have more than one tooth in a row. We suggest using flat, wide dental tape, which is ideal for the large spaces in children’s teeth.
6 – Establish a Dental Home Early
Get a head start on healthy gums by introducing your child to our practice as soon as their first tooth emerges, which is sometime before their first birthday. We like to make the first meeting an informal tour to ensure that both you and your child are comfortable with our office and our team. We think it’s important that children have a good association with their dentist, which is why our first meeting will be lighthearted and fun, and without any dental procedure.
Maintaining healthy gums can prevent heart disease and cavities, and also lowers the likelihood of contracting an infection. It’s never too late to begin taking care of your child’s gums, and with these guidelines, your child will have a great head start on having a healthy smile!