Just as your baby needs quality medical care from the time they are born, early dental care for children is also crucial. Although most babies do not have visible teeth for the first six months to one year of their lives, good dental care starts from the very beginning. And even though baby teeth, also called deciduous or milk teeth, will eventually be replaced by permanent adult teeth, neglect of these first teeth may lead to serious health issues.
In making sure your child has proper dental care, you will not only help to safeguard their smile but also assist them in building a lifetime of good oral care habits. Here is a comprehensive guide to aid you in caring for your baby’s dental health during their first few years.
Before Tooth Eruption
The first baby teeth start to show up at around six months old and will likely appear in the front of the mouth. But even before they arrive, you need to keep your baby’s mouth clean. You can accomplish this by using a clean, warm, moistened cloth or a piece of sterile gauze to gently wipe your baby’s gums with your index finger. Be thorough, but use light pressure. The goal is to remove any food particles or milk film from their gums.
Teething can be frustrating for a baby and their parents. It begins at about six months with the appearance of the first tooth and can continue until your child is around two years old. During this time, your child may be uncomfortable from the eruption of new teeth, but you can help with a few simple measures.
Use a clean, chilled teething ring to help with pain and desire to chew. A cold, clean cloth also works. You can also apply topical ointments designed to relieve teething discomfort to their gums, but be sure these ointments do not contain benzocaine as this medication can be dangerous to babies. See your pediatrician or Arkansas Family Dental dentist if you need further guidance or have questions.
First Dental Visit
Many parents are uncertain about when to first bring their child to the dentist. Their initial dental visit should be when the first tooth erupts or at one year old, whichever comes first. Note that not all dentists treat young kids, and with a baby, you will certainly want a dentist for children – one who is experienced with pediatric dentistry and is sure to be gentle and patient. At Arkansas Family Dental, your Little Rock dentist, we provide dental services for kids with compassionate care.
Your child’s first visit will include a thorough examination, checking for any existing or potential problems. Your little one will also have their first professional teeth cleaning at this time. You can use this opportunity to ask any questions or request a demonstration of proper at-home oral care techniques for your baby.
Home Oral Care When the First Tooth Arrives
Good teeth cleaning habits start with the appearance of the first tooth. At first, you will need to do the brushing yourself, but your child will soon be able to handle their toothbrush under your close supervision. Within a few years, they will be able to brush on their own— supervision and inspection is still recommended.
When guiding your child, make sure they brush completely and thoroughly, gently scrubbing all surfaces of each tooth. Select a toothbrush with soft bristles and a large, easy-to-grip handle. To ensure thorough brushing, you also may decide to use an electric toothbrush.
You can make brushing fun by selecting a toothbrush with cartoon characters or a flavored toothpaste like bubblegum or even chocolate. Just be certain that the toothpaste you choose contains fluoride and carries the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. You should brush your baby’s teeth with a drop of toothpaste about the size of single rice grain. When your child grows to a toddler, use a pea-sized amount.
Flossing should begin when your child has two teeth side-by-side. You can select waxed floss for comfort. Floss your child’s teeth yourself at first, then allow them to floss themselves with supervision.
Discouraging Bad Habits
Babies often love pacifiers or thumb sucking, but once your baby becomes a toddler, these habits should cease. Sucking habits can be a source of decay-causing bacteria and also lead to eventual misalignment of the teeth.
Infants up to six months old should generally drink only breast milk or formula, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no child less than a year old drink juice. Sodas are always a bad idea as the sugar and acid greatly contribute to tooth decay. You should also avoid lingering candy treats like lollipops and jawbreakers.
You Have an Ally in Your Baby’s Dental Health
The dental experts at Arkansas Family Dental are your partners in ensuring your baby’s excellent dental health. Do not hesitate to turn to us for guidance, questions, and all your child’s dental needs. You can make an appointment here at any time.