7 Early Secrets for Your Child's Smile

Did you know that of the 4 million children born each year, more than half will have cavities by the time they reach the second grade?

In the May 2000 Surgeon General's report,Oral Health in America, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related conditions. Tooth decay or infections can have a serious impact on your child's sleep, speech and overall development. Unhealthy teeth can also affect a child's self-confidence about the way they look and communicate with their peers.

Teeth begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy, so you should start to take care of your child's teeth atthe moment they are born. You can follow these simple tips:

1. Cleaning your child's gums after feeding with damp wash cloth. When teeth erupt, use a soft baby toothbrush to clean teeth twice per day.

Train your child in good oral care by demonstrating brushing and flossing for them in the morning, and then encourage them to "show you" before bed.

2. Don't allow your child to sleep with a bottle in their mouth.

The result of sending a child to bed with a bottle of anything other than water can result in severe tooth decay.

3. Visit the dentist early.

According to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the first visit to the dentist should be when the first tooth comes in, usually between six and 12 months of age. Your dentist should see your child for a brief exam every six months and also track your child's oral health and jaw growth and dental development

4. Watchout for sugar and read the labels. Avoid baby foods and drinks with high amounts of sugar content including the "hidden sugars."

Many studies have revealed that sugar can be more "addictive" than many drugs.

5. Lead by example when it comes to your child's oral health.

Children imitate their parents and will want to eat and drink what they see you are eating and drinking.

6. Spend time educating your children about good dental habits and foods that keep their teeth healthy. Feed your child nutritious and natural foods like blueberries, celery, carrots, green and other fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed, sugary and sticky foods.

7. Avoid oral care products with detergents, alcohol, or other harmful chemicals. Many toothpastes contain sodium lauryl sulfate which has been proven to be a skin irritant and damaging to delicate mucosal tissue. Mouthwashes with alcohol are drying to the mouth making them more susceptible to disease.

By properly caring for their teeth, they will have a smile that will last a lifetime. These simple tips, along with regular visits to your dentist, will not only keep your child's dental costs down, but beaming with a beautiful smile for picture day at school.

Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned aesthetic dentist and pioneer in the emerging field of rejuvenation dentistry, which improves patients' overall health and appearance by integrating total wellness with cutting edge oral care and restorative procedures. In addition to his private practice, research, and work as a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, he is an internationally sought after speaker, author and expert who has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. For more information, go to rejuvenationdentistry.com.