Your baby’s first tooth is an exciting milestone in her life. That tiny little tooth is the start of a very big smile. Like most parents, you want to take the best care possible of your baby’s mouth so she can enjoy healthy baby teeth throughout her childhood and a beautiful smile as an adult.
While your baby’s teeth might be small, they perform important jobs. Baby teeth serve as placeholders for adult teeth. They also help your child speak clearly, form sounds and chew food. Baby teeth also influence the way your baby’s jaw grows.
Cleaning will remove bacteria sticking to your baby’s gums. Bacteria can leave behind a sticky plaque that can damage an emerging baby tooth.
Starting oral hygiene early improves the health of your baby’s first set of teeth. This early start also helps your baby become accustomed to having his teeth cleaned and gets him in the habit of maintaining good oral hygiene throughout his life.
Good oral hygiene should begin even before you see the first tooth emerge from your baby’s gum. Wrap a wet, warm washcloth or piece of gauze around your finger and wipe the gums after each feeding and before bedtime. You could also pull a commercially available soft rubber “finger gum cleanser” over your index finger to use to clean and massage your baby’s gums.
Start cleaning your child’s teeth twice a day—once in the morning and again after her last drink of the day—as soon as you see her first tooth appear. Most babies get their first baby tooth between 4 and 7 months of age, but every baby is different. Some babies are born with a tooth, for example, while others do not get their first tooth until sometime after their first birthday. The bottom two front teeth are usually the first to come in. Twenty tiny baby teeth, sometimes called milk teeth, will completely replace her gummy smile by the time she is about 2 1/2 years old.
You can continue using a wet washcloth, gauze or finger gum cleanser to clean your child’s baby teeth until he is between the ages of 12 and 18 months. When you see the first tooth beginning to appear, switch to a baby toothbrush and a bit of water.
Be choosy about your baby’s first toothbrush. Select one that has:
· Soft bristles that clean baby’s mouth without scratching her delicate gums
· A small head to fit comfortably inside baby’s mouth
· A large handle that makes it easy for you to hold the toothbrush
As the tooth erupts, add a tiny dab of toothpaste—about the size of a grain of rice. Slowly increase the amount of toothpaste as your child grows so that you use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste by the time your child is 3 years old.
Fluoride protects teeth against cavities but fluoride can be harmful, especially when swallowed. Swallowing fluoride can damage teeth, mottle the appearance of teeth and can even cause vomiting and diarrhea. For use in children aged 3 years and younger, choose a low-fluoride toothpaste that contains less than 1,000 parts per million (1000ppm) to reduce the risk for tooth damage and illness in the event your baby does swallow some toothpaste. Avoid fruit-flavored toothpastes to reduce your baby’s risk for swallowing too much fluoride.
Encourage your child to spit out excess toothpaste. Do not rinse with copious amounts of water, as flushing out your baby’s mouth makes toothpaste less effective.
Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the brush and gently brush around your baby’s teeth, front and back. Be aware that your baby’s gums may be sensitive while teething.
Take your baby to the dentist before her first birthday. This is especially true if your baby is at high risk for cavities or other common dental problems. Your baby’s dentist can spot issues and develop a treatment plan early, before small dental problems grow into larger ones.
Taking your baby to the dentist helps her feel more comfortable with dental work as she grows older. Familiarity with the dentist’s chair will keep your child calm during typical childhood dental procedures, such as cleanings and filling cavities, and improve the likelihood that she will continue to see her dentists regularly as an adult.
Your baby’s dentist can also provide you with personalized information for your baby’s oral hygiene. Improve the health and beauty of your child’s smile by learning all you can about caring for your baby’s teeth.
Bonnie Coberly is a Certified Health Counselor at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers. Natural Horizons Wellness Centers offers services in oral health, weight loss, and addiction abuse.