4 Easy Steps to Protect Your Infant’s and Toddler’s Gums

As a parent, you may worry about your child’s oral health. You know that as soon as those first few teeth come in that your little one will need to learn to handle a toothbrush and work with floss.

However, in your anticipation for baby teeth, don’t forget that your child will still need healthy gums to support those pearly whites. Even if your son or daughter won’t have teeth for a few months, make sure to follow these steps to ensure his or her gums remain in good shape.

1. Clean the Gums After Feeding

Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, your infant will need a steady supply of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals to grow strong and healthy. However, the carbohydrates that feed your child also feed the bacteria in his or her mouth.

To prevent bacteria build-up, you’ll need to clean your child’s gums and keep his or her mouth completely free of any debris after each feeding. Simply wrap a sanitary gauze around one of your fingers, dip the gauze in clean water and gently wipe the gums.

2. Don’t Let Your Baby Sleep With a Bottle

Many young children struggle to fall asleep unless they have something to suckle. When you struggle with regular sleeping and eating schedules, you may feel tempted to let your child fall asleep with a bottle of milk or formula so he or she can snack and sleep to his or her heart’s content.

But when you let your child sleep with a bottle, you likely don’t have the ability to clean your son’s or daughter’s gums whenever he or she has finished. As the bacteria build up, they can attack infant gums and contribute to inflammation, infection and pain.

Ideally, you should try to establish a routine that doesn’t involve a bottle. But if your child insists on sleeping with one, fill the bottle with water rather than milk, juice or formula. Water will clean your child’s gums and maintain a healthy pH level in your infant’s mouth.

3. Minimise Fruit Juice Consumption

For the first few months, your child should stick to breast milk or formula only. But as his or her digestive tract develops, you may soon explore other nourishing foods such as pureed fruits and vegetables. In an effort to provide all the vitamins and minerals your child needs, you may consider giving your infant a steady supply of juices consisting of 100% fruit.

But though juices have some benefits, keep in mind that even pure juice has plenty of sugar that will feed oral bacteria. As a result, you should limit juice consumption and only give juice as a special treat during meal times. Don’t give your child more than 120 to 170 ml juice per day.

4. Clean the Dummy and Replace It Often

Although some babies prefer to suckle during feeding, many other infants can’t seem to suckle enough, even when they don’t feel hungry. If your baby loves to suckle long after he or she has had her fill, a dummy may help keep your child calm, satisfied and happy.

But to ensure your little one’s gums stay healthy, always clean the dummy and clean it often. To sterilise the dummy, place it in boiling water for a few minutes or wash it in your dishwasher. If your infant dropped the dummy on the floor, you can quickly rinse it under warm water for a few seconds.

Do not use your own mouth to clean the dummy, as you will introduce foreign bacteria into your child’s mouth. Additionally, you should replace the dummy as soon as you notice any signs of deterioration.

Don’t Forget to Schedule Regular Dental Appointments

Although your child might not have any teeth just yet, the following steps can protect your infant’s gums and ensure those baby teeth have a solid start.

Once those little pearly whites pop in, schedule an appointment with your family dentist. Your dentist can then give you additional advice for caring for baby teeth.