Young kids with healthy teeth have more than just beautiful smiles. Baby teeth help children speak and chew, while holding a place in the jaw for the permanent teeth that are still hiding under the gums. But, “poor oral health [at any age] can impact general health,” says Lisa Harper Mallonee, MPH, RD, LD, registered dietitian, registered dental hygienist and associate professor at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry.
It’s never too soon to start caring for your children’s teeth. Before the first tooth even erupts, Malloonee says, “You really should start swabbing the mouth after feedings with a soft cloth.” Beginning a few days after birth, wipe the gums with a soft baby washcloth to remove plaque that can cause decay in erupting teeth. Dental caries, or tooth decay, are little holes in the teeth caused by bacteria in the mouth, which thrive on the sugars in our diet and produce acids that attack the tooth. Dental caries are on the rise among children, especially between the ages of 2 and 11 years old. Fortunately, good oral hygiene and a healthy diet can prevent tooth and gum problems throughout life. Courtesy of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.