Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your child will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
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
Teething can be troublesome for some babies. The teeth "cutting" through the gums can cause your child to drool , put their hands or toys in their mouth more often, and can seem irritable. A chilled teething toy or a toothbrush to chew on can provide some relief. Use caution when considering "teething gels," as your child will likely swallow most of the gel and the soothing effect of these gels is often short-lasting.
Toothbrushing and Toothpaste
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.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends using a fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth erupts. For children under the age of 3, a smear- or riced-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is recommended and is safe for your child to swallow. For children over the age of 3, a small pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is appropriate.
Don’t give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth can lead to early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries. Remember, cavities can develop as soon as the tooth erupts through the gums.
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. The earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid dental problems. We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and discuss how 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 watchingt to demonstrate the importance of your good oral habits. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your child to “brush” with you. 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 approaches 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!