Oral health care should begin even before your baby’s first tooth emerges. By instilling proper habits at a young age, parents can help ensure a successful transition to regular brushing and routine visits with the dentist when their child is older.
To help guide your child’s oral health, McLean DDS has compiled a list of tips to help you care for your baby’s teeth.
Cleaning your baby’s mouth is the first step in oral care. You can start wiping your infant’s gums before the teeth even begin to show signs of making an appearance. Simply use a clean, wet washcloth or gauze to gently wipe your baby’s gums before bed and after feedings. This helps remove leftover food residue and bacteria that can harm teeth as they start to emerge.
Baby Teeth Are Important
Your baby’s first teeth usually start to erupt around six months of age. These primary teeth play an important role in helping a child eat solid foods, make sounds and smile. They also hold space in the jaw to guide adult teeth into place when they start to arrive.
It is important to clean your baby’s mouth and gums from the start. Without proper care and cleaning, baby teeth can develop cavities, painful gum infections and even early tooth loss — all of which can lead to complex orthodontic care in the future. While baby teeth will eventually fall out, losing a baby tooth too soon due to decay can cause adult teeth to erupt crooked, crowded or abnormally spaced.
Establish Oral Care That Lasts a Lifetime
Here are some simple steps you can take to maintain the health of your baby’s teeth and gums.
- When your baby’s first tooth arrives, you can begin brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a smear of fluoride. After age 3, you can advance to a pea-sized amount of fluoride.
- If your child complains of pain in the mouth, or if you see any signs of tooth discoloration, talk to your child’s dentist. This could signal a cavity or some other oral health issue.
- Avoid giving your baby sugary and sticky foods or candies that can contribute to the formation of cavities. When your baby begins eating solid foods, allow him or her to drink water during and after meals to help wash away foods that stick to the teeth.
- Never put a baby down for a nap or bedtime with a bottle containing milk, juice, formula or other sugary drinks. Water is the safest option if your baby must have a bottle to sleep.
Create Positive Dental Experiences
Take your child to his/her first dental appointment within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, or no later than the child’s first birthday. Your child’s first checkup is an important opportunity to create a positive experience with a dentist and the dental office. During the initial appointment, your baby’s dentist will examine your child’s mouth and development of the teeth and jaws. The dentist also can answer any questions or concerns you have about your child’s oral health and provide you with helpful tips you can use for your child’s daily dental care.
To learn more, please see our Baby Detal Care FAQ (PDF).