Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! 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 nursing 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 baby's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits. It also helps the baby to get used to you cleaning his or her mouth.
Baby's First Tooth
When that first tooth erupts, you can continue to clean the baby's tooth with a wet washcloth or gauze pad. There are also two other 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.
At this stage, toothpaste isn't necessary. Just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn't react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don't give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months and try the toothbrush again.
Brushing with Toothpaste
When a few more teeth appear, you can start using training toothpaste with your child's brush. For the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride because ingesting too much fluoride can be harmful for toddlers. Ingesting too much fluoridated toothpaste at this age can lead to enamel discoloration of the permanent teeth. This is called fluorosis. Once your child masters the sequence of swishing and spitting, you can switch to a children's toothpaste containing fluoride. We still recommend that you use a tiny pea size amount of the toothpaste at this stage. We also recommend that you supervise the child's toothbrushing activity.
Don't give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks, sweetened juices 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 are a guarantee for early childhood decay, also called baby bottle caries.
First Visit to the Dentist
It's recommended that you bring your baby for a first dental visit within six months of the first tooth's eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Just remember, first birthday, first check-up! Since decay can occur even in very young children, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely we can work together to prevent problems. We'll look for any signs of early problems with your baby's oral heath, and show you 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 towards making your child comfortable with regular dental checkups.
Setting a Good Example
As part of the natural learning process, children 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 learn 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 manual dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they're about six or seven, so you'll have to assist them. We recommend allowing the child to brush his or her teeth first and then having the parent take a turn to clean any areas the child might have missed. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. There are also many apps available for your iPad or smart phone to motivate children to brush. 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!