Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your son or daughter will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Perinatal & Infant Oral Health
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling during pregnancy. Research has shown evidence that periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Talk to your doctor or dentist about ways you can prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy. Additionally, mothers with poor oral health may be at a greater risk of passing the bacteria which causes cavities to their young children. Mother's should follow these simple steps to decrease the risk of spreading cavity-causing bacteria:
- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Brush and floss on a daily basis to reduce bacterial plaque.
- Proper diet, with the reduction of beverages and foods high in sugar & starch.
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste recommended by the ADA and rinse every night with an alchoal-free, over-the-counter mouth rinse with .05 % sodium fluoride in order to reduce plaque levels.
- Don't share utensils, cups or food which can cause the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to your children.
- Use of xylitol chewing gum can decrease a child's caries rate.
Caring for Gums
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one’s mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.
Baby’s First Tooth
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few. During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.
Brushing with Toothpaste
When baby teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste when brushing your child’s teeth. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) no more than twice a day. When your child is able to rinse and spit out the toothpaste (around 3 years old), you can start to use up to a pea size amount of toothpaste. Ingesting too much toothpaste can be detrimental, so storing toothpaste away from babies and young toddlers is important.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries)
One serious form of decay among young children is early childhood caries. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant's teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.
Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child's teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water. If your child won't fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle's contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.
The same science applies to breast milk and children who fall asleep while nursing or who nurse on demand at nighttime past the age of 1 years old (when it is recommended to discontinue bottle usage). Before 1 years old and before 1st primary molars erupt you may wipe a baby’s teeth and gums at night after feedings with a damp gauze or washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child's head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child's mouth easily.
Sippy cups should be used as a training tool from the bottle to a cup and should be discontinued as soon as your child is able to use a straw cup or regular cup. Fill the sippy cup with water only throughout the day and milk at mealtimes or when you can brush your child’s teeth shortly after. By filling the sippy cup with liquids that contain sugar and allowing your child to drink from it throughout the day, you are soaking your child's teeth in food for cavity causing bacteria.
First Visit to the Dentist
It’s recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems. We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one's teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
Setting a Good Example
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.) Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!
When will my baby start getting teeth?
Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. In general, the first baby teeth to appear are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth and they usually begin erupting between the age of 4-8 months but could be delayed more than a year.