Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 26-01-2022
Your baby’s first tooth will appear at 4-6 months, but you should be caring for their oral health long before that! Dental care begins from almost the moment your child is born. Healthy baby teeth set the stage for a healthy set of permanent teeth. To learn how to look after your child’s teeth and gums, keep reading.
Wipe Your Baby’s Mouth and Gums With a Soft Cloth
Long before the first tooth arrives, you start caring for the oral health of your child. A few days after your baby is born, start using a soft, damp, and clean cloth to wipe their gums. This should be done after every feeding to remove any bacteria. As you gently massage the gum tissues, you are also helping your newborn feel comfortable with having their mouth cleaned.
Be Careful When Using Utensils With Your Baby
Did you know that dental decay is an infectious and transmissible disease? This means that you can transfer your own cavities to your child. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth, and this bacteria can easily find its way from your mouth to your infant’s.
Be careful when sharing utensils, testing your baby’s bottle with your mouth, or cleaning their pacific in your mouth. The saliva that you leave on these items could mean trouble for your child’s oral health. To stop the transmission of bacteria, don’t put these things into your mouth.
However, you’re unlikely to stop sharing spoons with your little one. A more realistic course of action is to practice good dental health habits yourself. Preventing early childhood tooth decay can begin with you and your family keeping your own teeth and gums healthy. If your mouth is free of tooth decay bacteria, then you can’t transfer any to your child.
Be Prepared for Teething at 4-6 Months
You can expect that first tooth to emerge 4-6 months into your child’s life. During this time, their gums will often become red and swollen, and their mouth will start producing more saliva. This is all very uncomfortable for your baby! Using a teething ring or a cold wet washcloth can help mitigate their symptoms. Anything cold will be soothing to their inflamed gums.
When Teeth Appear, Use a Soft Baby Toothbrush
As soon as your baby’s first tooth appears, begin brushing. You should use a smaller, soft bristle toothbrush that is made for infants. Brush twice daily.
At this stage, toothpaste is optional. It’s perfectly fine to brush your child’s first teeth with water alone. Talk with your dentist and follow their recommendations. They might suggest using a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
If you do choose to use fluoride toothpaste, you must teach your child not to swallow it. While a little fluoride is important for oral health, too much is toxic and can stain children’s teeth. If your dentist thinks your baby needs fluoride supplements, then follow their directions exactly.
Gently Brush in Circles
Brush your baby’s teeth gently! Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle. While cleaning along the gums, be especially careful. You don’t want to damage their gums by brushing too vigorously. Ensure that you continue to massage the gum tissues with a wet cloth where teeth have not yet broken through.
Get Ready to Floss
As soon as your child has two teeth that are touching, it’s time to floss! Your dentist can teach you the right flossing techniques for your child. If you’re struggling with conventional flossing methods, then try using plastic flossing tools.
Don’t Let Your Baby Sleep With a Bottle
Putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with milk, juice, or formula can lead to tooth decay. These liquids are all high in sugar, thus causing bottle mouth and cavities. Do not prop the bottle up in your baby’s mouth. Allowing them to feed at will means you are unable to regulate how much sugar they are consuming or when they are consuming it. As soon as your baby is finished feeding, remove the bottle.
Teach Your Baby to Drink From an Open Cup
At 4-6 months, begin teaching your baby how to drink from an open cup. You should aim to no longer be using bottles or sippy cups by the time your child is 12-18 months old. Drinking from an open cup reduces the chance of tooth decay because the liquid is less likely to pool around the teeth.
Choose Water in Between Meals
If your child is thirsty, opt for water instead of a sugary juice or other sweet beverage. Remember, liquids that are high in sugar can lead to tooth decay! Water is hydrating and won’t damage their teeth.
Feed Your Baby Healthy and Nutritious Foods
To help your child maintain healthy gums, develop strong teeth, and avoid tooth decay, feed them healthy and nutritious foods. Avoid processed carbohydrates and anything high in sugar.
Begin Regular Dentist Appointments by 12 Months
Your child should have their first dental exam within 6 months of their first tooth arriving or by the time they’re 12 months old. These appointments are both proactive and preventative. Your dentist will be on the watch for tooth decay and other dental issues, and can answer any questions you may have about your child’s dental care.
Family Dentistry for Every Member of Your Family
Caring for your child’s oral health begins months before their first tooth appears. Taking steps at home to tend to their growing smile reduces the chance of tooth decay and other problems. By the time your child is one, you should be taking them to the dentist regularly.
At Milltown Dental, we offer dentistry designed to meet the needs of each member of your family. As your child grows, their dental needs change. We are there for each stage of development to ensure that everyone in your family, from the youngest to the oldest, has a happy, healthy smile.