What You Need to Know About Caring for a Baby's Teeth

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The care you give your baby’s teeth has long-lasting effects on his or her future oral health. The information below should be especially useful to help you get your child on the road to a happy and healthy smile for life.

Begin Even Before Teeth Start Breaking Through

You don’t have to wait for your child to start cutting teeth. You can begin caring for his or her gums while still a newborn. Doing so helps him or her become accustomed to brushing and flossing at an older age. Simply take a moist washcloth or piece of gauze and gently wipe your baby’s gums two to three times a day to remove excess matter that may irritate the gums. If possible, do this right after eating and you will be on your way to establishing the habit of brushing after meals.

Brushing Baby’s First Teeth

When new teeth start to break through the gums, you are ready to graduate from simply wiping the gums to brushing. Choosing the right toothbrush is very important at this stage. It should have very soft and flexible bristles to avoid irritating the gums and a relatively small but somewhat flexible head to reach hard-to-access areas. An ergonomic handle is beneficial too, since brushing a baby’s teeth takes much longer than brushing adult teeth.

In the beginning, toothpaste is not necessary. Instead, simply moisten the bristles with warm water and then brush the front, back, and top surfaces of each tooth. Finish by massaging the upper and lower gums lightly with the brush to remove plaque and stimulate healthy blood circulation. Try to do this each time your child has a meal or snack, so perhaps carry an infant toothbrush in your diaper bag.

One Year and Older

At around 1 year of age, toothpaste is appropriate whenever you brush your child’s teeth. Avoid toothpaste with fluoride because it irritates a child’s stomach if swallowed. Finding a toothpaste your child is willing to use can take a great deal of trial and error, so buy only small tubes of each brand to avoid wasting too much product and money.

At this age, your baby will probably have several teeth that are very close together, which means that flossing should be started as well. One type of floss is really no better than another, yet your child may be more receptive to strands of floss rather than picks. Try several types to see which one he or she prefers, and avoid minty-flavored brands, since these may also irritate.

First Dental Visit

The American Dental Association recommends scheduling your child’s first dental appointment at about 1 year of age. During this initial visit, the dentist will examine your infant’s mouth for dental issues such as plaque and tartar buildup as well as signs of abnormal tooth growth or decay; the goal is to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. The entire visit should take less than 30 minutes.

Other Factors to Consider

Aside from good oral hygiene, diet is very important in caring for a baby’s teeth. Your child should avoid drinking too many sugary beverages, and candy consumption should be kept to a minimum. Provide healthy snacks such as apple slices, carrots, or celery sticks; these crunchy foods help stimulate good circulation to the gums.

Some pain while teething is normal, and can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications and ointments. Routine brushing and gum care will not exacerbate teething pain; in fact, stimulating the gums provides relief for many babies. If your child learns good dental hygiene habits while young, he or she is more likely to continue practicing good dental care habits throughout life.

About the author:
Darla Scheidt is the Marketing Director for Grove Dental Associates, a successful multi-office, multi-specialty group dental practice in the Chicago western suburbs. With four offices, over 30 doctors and having been in practice for over 40 years, Grove Dental stays on the cutting edge of dentistry to better serve patients.

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