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Baby Teeth And How To Care For Them

At birth, the primary teeth or baby teeth have already been formed.

These teeth are hidden in the gums and begin to cut through at about six months of age.

The appearance of the baby teeth differs in each baby. Some babies get their teeth at an earlier age while others may get them later.

The variance of age is also normal. In fact, Mommy X’s one-year-old may have a different number of teeth in comparison to Mommy Y’s one-year-old baby.

The first teeth that come out are usually the front bottom teeth, followed by the four front top teeth and another two bottom teeth. Teeth usually come two at a time – one on both sides of the jaw. By age three, 20 primary teeth should be present.

It is also normal for baby teeth to have spaces between them. These spaces help make enough room for the permanent teeth. The lack of space between the baby teeth may sometimes mean that adult teeth will suffer from crowding issues.

And despite the eventual fall out of baby teeth, taking proper care of them is still necessary. After all, these teeth help your child bite and chew food, which is pivotal in the development of normal oromuscular function and his or her speech.

Baby teeth also help guide permanent teeth into place. When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room to come in. As a result, this can lead to crooked or crowded teeth.

Discoloration of Baby Teeth

Parents may notice a change in the color of their baby’s teeth. This discoloration may be due to several factors that range from minor to major:

  • Taking tetracycline or other antibiotics during pregnancy cause tooth calcification, making teeth gray or yellow.
  • Baby medications can hinder normal saliva production. In turn, baby teeth may exhibit signs of staining.
  • Sugary beverages do not only cause tooth decay but can also stain teeth and deteriorate the enamel.
  • Illnesses or infections can change the color of the teeth.
  • Lack of proper oral hygiene can cause various dental problems like teeth staining.

Good oral hygiene is advised to avoid the staining of baby teeth. Oral health issues must not be ignored and should be consulted with experts to prevent worst-case scenarios.

“Baby Bottle Tooth Decay”

Nobody wants their children to get cavities at an early age. Unfortunately, tooth decay happens earlier than expected. Teething babies, in particular, can be afflicted with “baby bottle tooth decay.” This term refers to tooth decay that occurs in young children and babies. Usually, this type happens when sugars from your child’s bottle feed linger on the teeth for too long. 

Baby bottles pool their contents into your child’s mouth

First, we need to clarify what it is about nursing that promotes tooth decay. Breast-fed babies don’t seem to have as much of a problem with this as bottle-fed children do. Some have concluded that the creation of the baby bottle is what spurred this increase in infant tooth decay. 

As opposed to breast-feeding, babies who feed on bottles may sometimes have it in their mouths for long periods, such as during nap time. If your baby leaves the bottle in their mouth for an extended period, the milk will eventually pool into their mouths. The child’s teeth then bathe in this liquid, which bacteria can feed off. As we discussed prior, oral bacteria synthesize the residual sugars into acid, which hurts the tooth enamel. 

When baby teeth are left in the formula for a long time, they’re settling in a sea of sugar. This sugar, of course, is ripe for bacteria to exploit. They take the milk’s sugars and transform it into acid, which eats at your child’s enamel. And because their enamel is still thin at that stage, they deteriorate more quickly.

Tips to prevent decay

Monitoring what goes into their bottle. As much as possible, parents should avoid giving their babies and toddlers sweet drinks if they bottle-feed. Repetitive exposure to these sugars makes them more susceptible to tooth decay, even if you clean their teeth afterward. 

Not letting their child go to bed with the bottle. Keeping the bottle in their mouths overnight leads to a higher incidence of tooth decay, as your child’s teeth bathe in the liquid for an extended period. If they do find comfort in keeping the bottle in their mouths, opt instead for a bottle of water.

Breast-feed as much as possible. While this option isn’t open to all mothers, those who can breast-feed should make the most of it.  

Clean their mouths right after a feeding. Coupled with preventive measures, cleaning your child’s mouth is a surefire way to prevent early tooth decay. Particularly after every feed. Even if your child has not yet grown their milk teeth, cleaning the gums after feeding can limit the damage decay-causing bacteria could make and keep your child’s future teeth healthier for longer. 

 For children who have not yet grown their teeth, a good wipe with a soft cloth and water should be enough to clean their gums. After a while, you can upgrade their routine with a small, soft-bristled brush and a smear of low-fluoride toothpaste. While they’re still young, they don’t have to rinse their mouths after every cleaning; but make sure they spit out the toothpaste after to prevent fluorosis. 

Ways To Care for Your Baby’s Teeth

Before your child gets his or her first tooth, wipe his or her gums with a clean, damp gauze or washcloth. Carefully wrap the gauze or washcloth around your index finger, then rub it gently over the baby’s gums. When your child’s teeth come out, brush them twice daily using a soft toothbrush with polished nylon. Bristles can be softened by soaking them in warm water for a few minutes. Search for a toothbrush that is specifically designed with a small grip and small head.

During two years of age, you can begin using fluoridated toothpaste with fluoride lower than 1,000 parts per million to brush your child’s teeth. Use only a small dab of toothpaste which is about the size of your baby’s pinky fingernail. Gently brush the inside and outside of the child’s teeth, and clean his or tongue to clear away bacteria that can cause bad breath. Also, replace the child’s toothbrush regularly, especially when the bristles are already shredded or worn.

Children tend to swallow toothpaste when brushing, so make sure to make your child spits out the substance. Though cases are uncommon, swallowing of toothpaste may lead to fluorosis which is a condition where white spots appear on a child’s teeth. Too much fluoride may also result in cosmetic problems in the permanent teeth.

Children at high risk for cavities can get sealants put on their teeth. Sealants are plastic coverings placed over the grooves of teeth to protect them from decay.

It is important for parents to be aware of any holes or dark spots on the teeth which are initial signs of decay. Sealants can be placed over the grooves of teeth to protect them from decay.

Practicing good oral hygiene as early as now will be beneficial in helping children develop habits for good oral health. Getting your child accustomed to having their mouth cleaned is a pivotal part of daily dental routine care, making it easier for them to shift into toothbrushing on their own in the future as well.

Losing Baby Teeth at School

Baby teeth will eventually fall out. However, it can be inconvenient for a child to lose a tooth while in school. Therefore, knowing what to do in such a situation is necessary.

And as a parent, there are measures you can take to help your child prepare for this occurrence:

  • Talk to your child about the possibility of losing his or her tooth at school, and advise them what to do. Tell them to refrain from wiggling their tooth and to take extra care when eating to prevent the tooth from falling out. Instruct them to tell their teacher or a staff member about the situation, or go straight to the nurse’s office if no adult is available to assist them if their tooth does fall out. Most teachers have handled similar situations before and will know what to do.
  • Prepare a container where the child can put his or her fallen tooth. Once the tooth becomes looser, the likeliness that it will fall out becomes more urgent.
  • Don’t make your child feel guilty about the possibility of losing their tooth in school. Also, answer your child’s questions about losing their tooth to give them confidence in tackling the situation.
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