From adorable gummy baby grins to a toddler mouth full of little pearly whites, kids undoubtedly have the cutest smiles in the world. But did you know that taking care of your child’s oral health is one of the most important things you can do for their whole body wellness?
By the time babies are born, they already have 20 primary—or baby—teeth formed in their jaws. At around six months, the teeth begin erupting through the gums and by age three, most kids have a full set of tiny teeth.
We all know that baby teeth fall out eventually, starting at around six years old. So, why spend loads of time caring for teeth that won’t be around for longer than a few years? Well, not only do baby teeth hold places for the permanent, adult teeth that will come in (and hopefully last a lifetime), but they help kids learn to chew and speak properly.
Establishing good dental habits from a young age is the key to promoting long-lasting, healthy teeth:
• Brush early and often. Before teeth even come in, wipe gums daily with a soft, clean washcloth to get your baby used to oral care. When teeth do start to break through, brush gently at least two times per day with a soft brush to avoid gunky buildup.
• Floss tight spaces. Some toddlers have big teeth and crowded mouths! As soon as you notice any of your child’s teeth touching, begin flossing right away to remove trapped food particles.
• Breastfeed. Ideally, you’ll be breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, setting the foundation for your baby’s lifetime of health. But, breastfeeding beyond the first six months—once teeth come in—is beneficial for dental health as well. One study showed that breast milk deposited calcium and phosphate directly onto tooth enamel and, much like water, it did not cause any decalcification or acidic oral conditions that can lead to tooth issues1. Infant formulas, on the other hand, create an acidic environment in the mouth that can dissolve precious tooth enamel2.
• Select natural products. Natural oral health products like Earthpaste or even coconut oil give your child a chemical-free, tasty alternative to traditional toothpaste. Steer clear of products that contain antibacterial chemicals—these wipe out the good bacteria in the mouth that protect the teeth and gums.
• Provide whole foods rich in nutrients. Foods high in sugars and starches can quickly build up excessive biofilm on your child’s teeth, leading to early dental issues. Stay away from processed snacks and serve your child a whole-foods based diet to promote a healthy smile. Focus on calcium (strong enamel), zinc (hard teeth and bones), and vitamins K and D for a blast of tooth-friendly nutrients.
• Visit the dentist. The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist six months after your child’s first tooth first comes in, by their first birthday at the latest. Your dentist can help you determine if your child is at risk for any early childhood dental issues.
Daily care of your child’s teeth and gums is integral to dental health, but the oral microbiome is where total oral health really begins.
Going Deeper: The Oral Microbiome
Perhaps you’ve already heard of the human microbiome, the colonies of trillions of microbes that live in and on our body. The good bacteria in our microbiome are responsible for a surprising number of bodily functions, such as helping us break down food and absorb nutrients, supporting our immune system, reducing temporary inflammation, and even producing enzymes and vitamins.
The oral microbiome—consisting of nearly 800 different species of bacteria in the mouth, ears, nose, and throat—is an essential part of this vast network of microorganisms, and it has a significant effect on both oral and overall health.
You see, the mouth, nose, and throat are the gateways to the gut, where 80% of our immune system resides. We swallow approximately one trillion bacteria every day, so our oral microbiome is a constant source of bacteria (both good and bad) for the rest of our body. The good news is that a strong, balanced oral microbiome will work hard to keep out unwanted invaders that can lead to lingering sinus, ear, throat, upper respiratory, and dental issues.
However, modern life is full of daily factors that can make maintaining this microbial balance quite difficult. Things like the indiscriminate effects of antibiotics both as medicine and in our food supply, overzealous hygiene habits, too much time indoors, diet, and even stress can cause the good guy bacteria to lose their footing, paving the way for the bad guys to take over and eventually cause a host of problems.
How does an unbalanced oral microbiome affect your child’s teeth? Some harmful bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, live in the sticky biofilm on tooth surfaces. As good bacteria are depleted, S. mutans numbers increase, feeding on sugar in the diet to produce acids that break down healthy tooth enamel.
Probiotics for Tiny Teeth
The truth is, even if you are routinely brushing and flossing your toddler’s teeth and providing plenty of healthy food, if their oral microbiome is out of equilibrium then the bad guys can quickly gain control.
That’s why supplementing with oral probiotics is one of the best steps you can take on a daily basis to fortify your child’s oral (and whole body) health.
Hyperbiotics PRO-Kids ENT is a chewable probiotic formula with targeted strains of beneficial bacteria (including S. salivarius M18 and S. salivarius K12) that crowd out the bad guys and dissolve and loosen the biofilm that can stick to teeth.
In one study, S. salivarius M18 was able to inhibit undesirable bacteria by producing enzymes that counter acidity and biofilm formation 3. In another trial, dental scores of children treated with the M18 probiotic for three months were significantly better than the scores of kids who weren’t given M184.
Remember, it’s not just the teeth and gums that need plenty of good bacteria—our whole body thrives on beneficial microbes! Adding a high-quality digestive probiotic like PRO-Kids to the mix will go the extra mile in keeping your child’s gut health in tip top shape as well.
As a parent, we would give our kids the sun and the moon and the stars if we could. And as insignificant as it may sound, taking care of your toddler’s teeth—as well as their entire microbial ecosystem—is a critical component of giving them a head start at a healthy and vibrant life.
Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.