Quite a few people think that baby teeth don’t need a lot of attention. “Oh, they’ll disappear anyway, so no need to take much care”. Mistake! While your baby is teething, the basis for the adult teeth is already being laid. Dental decay in baby teeth is very likely to have a negative impact on the development of the adult teeth as well. And those are the ones that are supposed to last for the rest of your life!
So how can you make sure you give your baby’s teeth the best possible start? Here are a few tips:
- start cleaning your bub’s gums and teeth very early on, so that he/she gets used to it. You can clean the gums by gently wiping them with a clean wash cloth or gauze. As soon as the first teeth arrive, make a habit of cleaning them with a soft tooth brush twice a day (morning and before bed) so that it will be a normal routine for your child right from the start. Do not use toothpaste until your baby is 18 months of age (or until they know how to spit out the toothpaste after brushing).
- on average, teething starts at the age of 6-10 months, although it can start quite a bit earlier or later, so don’t worry.
- don’t get into the habit of giving your baby a bottle to keep with them in bed. No milk and certainly no juices or sugary drinks. Giving a feed or decent amount to drink in 1 go is much less intrusive for the (developing) teeth than having a little sip every time over an extended space of time, except of course if it’s water. Remember, juices contain lots of sugars.
- get your baby accustomed to drinking water from the very beginning. It is so much healthier for them, not just for the teeth, but for their overall health.
- if your baby has a pacifier/dummy, don’t dip it in honey or anything else that is sweet.
And that takes me to one of my favourite subjects: food & health… You might already be aware of this: sugar is very addictive. Do you have those cravings of just having to have something sweet? I certainly used to! Do you look at the ingredients on all the packages you buy? I got into the habit of doing that when I was told my 2 boys should stay away from sugar (and dairy) when they were still very young (I think respectively 3 and 5). It is amazing now many products have added sugar. And sometimes it is not very apparent, as they might have it as a sweetener with an unpronounceable name. They’re all addictive and we definitely do not need them. So if you can, please do not introduce sweets or anything with sugar in it to your baby or toddler (or growing child). Just the occasional “treat” probably won’t hurt, but be very careful… Yes, in primary school my boys had a separate tin with sugar free treats for when another child handed out treats, and no, they did not always like that. But I’m glad that I was quite strict at that time. Let me tell you a little story.
When my sons were about 16-17, after one of their regular dental check-ups, the dentist let out a sigh, looked at me and said: “If only all kids’ teeth were as healthy as your boys’. There are so many young kids with tooth decay, even losing teeth, it makes me very sad. But these 2 so far still have had no decay, no cavities at all. Their teeth are beautiful and strong.” I, of course, was a very proud Mum, and told my sister about this. It was she who opened my eyes and said: “But remember, you were always so strict with them not having (much) sugar from when they were very young, so surely that’s played a role in them having such healthy teeth.”
I could go on and on about food and health, but I won’t. Let me just say this: whole foods, prepared from fresh if you can, are the best for everyone. And yes, it’s ok to cheat, if it’s only every now and again. We all need that, don’t we?
So how do I match this with baby massage? Well, let me see… Massage does help your baby’s digestive system, so that’s a link, isn’t it? Like I said at the beginning of this article, I’m veering away from my usual subjects a bit, but couldn’t help it, I hope you forgive me.