Dental care should start well before your baby’s cute little teeth start coming in. Supporting your child’s gums and teeth is vital to their general health and will ensure a set of healthy permanent teeth in the future. Find out how to properly care for your baby’s dental health and learn some simple tips about reducing their risk of dental disease.
Cleaning Your Baby’s Gums Before Teeth Come In
It’s a good idea to wipe your baby’s gums with a soft, wet washcloth or damp piece of gauze a couple of time every day. Some people recommend wiping your baby’s gums after each feeding to keep bacteria from building up on them. This will save any hidden, emerging teeth from being exposed to bacteria as they come up.
Plus, cleaning your baby’s mouth from an early age will help them get used to the process and make it easier for you to brush their teeth later. You can even buy thimble-like devices, like this one from Little Piglet, that fit over your finger to rub excess food off of your baby’s gums.
How to Help Your Baby Through Teething
Your baby may experience discomfort as their new teeth start emerging. If you notice any teething symptoms, you can help your child relieve their discomfort with a few tricks.
Give Them Things to Chew On
For example, allow your baby to chew on a cold, wet washcloth to help them massage their sore gums and numb the pain. You can also buy special teethers for your baby to chew on, such as this adorable shark teether. Here’s a quick tip: pop your teether in the fridge for a couple of hours so it’s cool and soothing on your baby’s gums.
Try Topical Medications and Oils
Topical medication can also help relieve teething discomfort. Just make sure you avoid medications that contain benzocaine as it can cause side effects that put your baby’s health at risk. Instead, try a natural pain relief teething oil. This can be easily massaged onto gums without fear of introducing harmful medications or chemicals to your baby.
How to Properly Brush Your Baby’s Teeth
Once your baby’s teeth start pushing through their gums, it’s very important that you begin taking care of them immediately. This typically occurs around 6-10 months of age. Even though these teeth aren’t permanent, leaving them to decay can result in painful gum infections that can affect the spacing of your baby’s future permanent teeth.
Find the Right Supplies for Brushing
Remember to brush your child’s teeth twice per day, ideally in the morning and before bedtime. Find a toothbrush with a small head that’s suitable for small baby mouths but also comfortable in your own hand. You should only use water on the toothbrush until your baby is 2 years old. Once your baby is older, or your dentist recommends it, introduce toothpaste to your brushing routine. Your baby will love toothpaste with fruity flavors! Use only a small, rice-grained amount of toothpaste until your child is 3.
How to Brush Baby Teeth
Brush downwards on top teeth and upwards on bottom teeth. Make sure you get both the inside and outside of every tooth. Don’t forget to gently clean and massage your baby’s gums as well, with a dimpled gum massager or damp washcloth. This will help reduce plaque build-up and encourage strong, healthy gums.
Avoid Contaminating Your Baby’s Toothbrush
After you’re done brushing your baby’s teeth, rinse the toothbrush and set it somewhere upright and in the open-air to dry. Importantly, keep other family member’s toothbrushes from touching your baby’s toothbrush. This can transfer tooth decay-causing germs between brushes which will make it into your baby’s mouth. Also, don’t forget to replace your baby’s toothbrush every 3-4 months. If you don’t like the idea of just tossing them in the garbage, get a set of biodegradable baby toothbrushes.
Prevent Cavities and Gum Disease
Reduce your baby’s chances of getting cavities by recognizing the various causes of tooth decay in children. For example, many parents don’t realize that their own oral bacteria can be determinantal to their children’s teeth. Passing your saliva to your child by sharing spoons, cups, or testing their foods can introduce decay-causing bacteria from your mouth into theirs.
Avoid Cavity-Causing Foods
Exposing you baby to any liquid other than water frequently or for long periods of time can also wreak havoc on teeth. Sugars in these drinks are changed to acid by mouth bacteria which in turn dissolve the protective layers on teeth. Avoid putting your baby to bed with a both of milk, juice, or sugared drink.
Avoid feeding your baby a lot of these cavity-causing foods:
If you do serve these foods, make sure your baby drinks water with them so food doesn’t sit against their teeth. Finally, make sure you engage in regular preventative dental care to support your baby’s oral health.
How to Regulate Fluoride Intake
Did you know that the fluoride in tap water can prevent tooth decay and strengthen enamel? In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that fluoride in tap water is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay in children and adults alike.
If your baby isn’t getting fluoride from your tap water, you might want to consider supplying them with fluoride by other means. For example, you can purchase water for babies that has fluoride added to it. Talk to your dentist or pediatrician about fluoride supplements if you think your child isn’t getting fluoride from other sources.
A Fluoride Alternative
If you don’t want to expose your child to fluoride, look into the use of xylitol for preventing and reversing early dental disease instead. Many doctors and dentists recommend brushing your baby’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste after the age of two. However, xylitol toothpaste may be an effective alternative. Of course, always talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
Caring for your baby’s gums and teeth right from the start will give them the healthy mouth and healthy habits to support their permanent teeth as they grow up. Establish a brushing routine that your child can follow on their own one day. This will help them avoid unpleasant trips to the dentist to get cavities filled.