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Caring for Baby's Teeth: Dos and Don'ts

Katlyn Joy | 5, January 2012


Caring for Baby's Teeth: Dos and Don'ts

While you may only notice a gummy smile, baby's teeth actually began forming during the second trimester of your pregnancy and is born with some 20 primary teeth. It's just that they are still under the gums. By age 3, all those primary teeth should have erupted through the gums.

Why Worry About Cleaning Before Teeth are Erupted?

The American Dental Association recommends wiping baby's gums with a clean gauze pad or a wet washcloth after feedings even before the teeth appear to prevent plaque build up and bacteria from harming teeth still under the gumline.

When Baby's First Teeth Appear

You can expect baby's first teeth to emerge between seven months and 24 months of age. This teething process can be quite uncomfortable for infants. To allay some of the pain, try a chilled spoon, teething ring or a wet clean washcloth. Or you may try what many parents swear by; rubbing your clean fingers over the swollen gums. Teething causes drooling, fussiness, constant biting or chewing on items or fingers, loss of appetite and swollen and red gums.

Caring for First Teeth

Expect the first to pop through to be the bottom center teeth followed by the front top teeth, or the incisors. When the teeth appear, it's time to switch to a baby's sized toothbrush instead of gauze pads or washcloths. After feedings, using the toothbrush and plain water, brush baby's teeth gently but thoroughly. Do not use toothpaste at this time, however. Don't forget to use floss even if baby only has two teeth.

Other care tips for baby's first teeth include never dipping a pacifier in honey or sugar water. Also, don't let baby fall asleep with a bottle in his mouth. This will help prevent tooth decay or bottle mouth. Bottle mouth is when sugars eat away at the tooth enamel. Symptoms of bottle mouth include pitted or discolored front teeth.

Sippy cups can cause similar issues, so don't let baby walk around with a sippy cup unless it only contains water in it. Limit juices between meals as they are too sugary to be ingested frequently.

Brushing Toddler Teeth

For toddlers, getting them to be cooperative will be most the battle. To create a positive experience, buy your youngster a colorful toothbrush and allow her to brush alongside you. This mimicking of positive adult behavior will enable you to engage baby in healthy dental practices later.

Once your child is two years old, you can start using toothpaste instead of plain water on the toothbrush. Use a toothbrush with two rows of short, soft bristles. Use toothpaste with fluoride sparingly if at all. If your water is fluoridated or gets fluoride treatments, fluoride isn't necessary unless recommended by the child's dentist. Too much fluoride can cause damage to teeth called fluorosis. Children are notorious for swallowing rather than spitting out their toothpaste, so be prepared to help baby get those teeth clean and rinsed.

To get baby's teeth clean, get into a position where you can see what you're doing and so your child is secure and won't fall. Brush gently from front to back and don't forget to brush the tongue lightly as well to remove bacteria. Encourage your child to rinse and spit and make it fun or a game if possible. Sing a regular toothbrushing song with your child to pass the appropriate amount of time.

Baby's First Trip to the Dentist

You want to take baby for his first dental visit by the first birthday. Actually, once a tooth has emerged it's recommended that the first dentist appointment be set. These first visits are important to check your child's dental health and to instruct you on proper care of your baby's teeth. The earlier dental checks begin, the better for your child's health. Baby teeth create the space necessary to prepare for adult teeth and allow for correct jaw alignment and speech development. Dental carries can cause pain, inflammation, infection and can lead to poor weight gain and malnutrition.
Taking care of baby's first teeth means protecting your child's smile and health for years to come.

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