Once your baby starts developing teeth, you’ll want to start cleaning them. The earlier you start, the better. But how do you clean their baby teeth without injuring the gums? And how do you take care of your baby’s teeth?
When babies get their first teeth, they don’t usually require a lot of things to keep them clean. So, taking care of your baby’s teeth isn’t too hectic. But as they grow, so will their dental hygiene needs. That said, here are some things to keep in mind when cleaning your baby’s teeth:
For Babies, Keep Things Soft and Simple
When taking care of your baby’s teeth, the best thing to do is to keep it as simple as possible. Too much of the harsh stuff could harm your child’s gums and damage the developing teeth. Children under 18 months typically don’t need toothpaste, so, for the most part, all you need is a soft cloth and water. A good cleaning twice a day could help remove any plaque buildup. Typically, you’d want to clean their teeth once in the morning and once at night, after they had their last bottle.
Aside from soft cloth, you can also make use of a small, soft-bristled toothbrush for children to clean your baby’s teeth. Usually, packages indicate which age demographic the toothbrush caters to, so if you’re unsure whether it’s safe to use for your child, a quick scan should be enough. If you do decide to use a toothbrush, make sure you change it every one to three months.
From infancy to age three, you’ll often do the brushing yourself. To make things easier, you can sit your child on your lap facing away from you. Be gentle when you do brush their teeth, and use circular movements on the area where the gums and teeth adjoin.
Over time, you might want to let your child brush their teeth by themselves. Aside from teaching them how to care for their teeth themselves, this allows them to clean them they want to, making the experience more pleasant.
As They Grow Up, Upgrade to Low-Fluoride Toothpaste
Once your child turns 18 months, you can graduate from water to low-fluoride toothpaste. Young children typically don’t need too much fluoride, as it could cause illnesses like diarrhea or mottling on the teeth. If they do attempt to eat the toothpaste from the tube, discourage it as much as possible. You may also use a minty flavor to dissuade them from overconsumption.
When you do make use of toothpaste, less is usually more. The amount should be enough to cover the teeth thinly. When they finally reach three years of age, they can finally use the family toothpaste without worrying about the fluoride content. At this age, you can upgrade their toothpaste usage to a pea-sized amount to accommodate their growing teeth.
After brushing their teeth, encourage them to spit out the toothpaste to prevent them from swallowing it. If your child is younger than three, don’t rinse their mouth with water as this will wash away the fluoride film. When they are three years and older, however, rinsing the mouth is entirely welcome.
All in all, taking care of your baby’s teeth isn’t rocket science, but it does require parents to be patient and consistent.
Caring For Your Baby’s Oral Health From Day One
Despite their eventual fallout, baby teeth play an essential role in everyday life of children. They serve a vital role in the overall development of the oral cavity and the permanent teeth. Additionally, baby’s oral health plays a vital role for a healthy set of teeth, strong gums, and the reduction of oral-related problems due to excess oral bacteria.
Why Are Baby Teeth Important?
Eating: Baby teeth are necessary as they aid in the chewing and biting of food of growing children, making digestion easier for them. These functions are pivotal in the healthy development of the normal jaw function with each tooth functioning in certain ways.
For instance, the incisors help cut food and aid with taking small bites. The canines crush and tear food. Lastly, the molars are great for chewing, grinding, and breaking food particles.
#1 Speech. Additionally, baby teeth aid in the speech of children. They, along with the tongue, mouth, and lips, help kids form words by controlling the air flow out of the mouth. Moreover, certain sounds are created when their tongue moves and strikes the teeth in various ways.
#2 Permanent Teeth. More importantly, baby teeth are an essential foundation for adult teeth. When baby teeth develop and fall out the right way, they create space and guide the permanent teeth for their emergence.
If baby teeth were lost sooner than expected, there is a tendency that the teeth beside it will move and shift to fill the gap left by the tooth. When such happens, the permanent tooth will have a difficult time coming out due to the lack of space. Thus, this may cause a crooked or crowded set of teeth.
#3 Self-Confidence. Smiling is natural. In fact, 3D ultrasound images of developing babies suggest that even before people come out of their mother’s womb, they already know how to smile. This facial expression carries on in their sleep when they are born.
Also, children are known to smile as much as 400 times a day, making baby teeth important in building their self-esteem. A complete and healthy set of teeth makes children more akin to smiling and socializing with their peers.
Why is Oral Health Important Early?
Keeping baby teeth healthy saves children from suffering from tooth pain and discomfort due to tooth decay and cavities.
But without a healthy set of baby teeth, infection may develop on the gums and surrounding teeth. As a result, this infection may eventually spread to other parts of the body, causing disease and weakening the immune system.
Cleaning your baby’s gums with a soft, damp washcloth before the first tooth erupts eliminates oral bacteria and milk buildup. In turn, this creates a healthy base for the first teeth to come through. Think about it: What holds the teeth in place? That’s right, the gums!
The gums play a vital role in the mouth, as you can imagine. By keeping the gums healthy and clean of bacteria and debris, the teeth have a safe environment to grow, develop, and persist for years. The teeth can’t be healthy without healthy gums. That’s why cleaning the gums as early as possible ensures a cleaner and safer mouth for future pearly whites that will soon form.
A clean, healthy mouth ensures healthy baby teeth. Healthy baby teeth are likely to turn into healthy permanent teeth in the future.
It makes sense that caring for your baby’s temporary teeth allow healthy permanent teeth to develop in the future. The goal now should be to keep your baby’s mouth as clean as possible by brushing their teeth with a baby-sized toothbrush with a small drop of toothpaste twice a day once the very first tooth develops. Keeping up with your child’s oral health now ensures you have greater control over the harmful oral bacteria housing in your child’s mouth.
This makes the transition from caring for baby teeth to caring for the permanent teeth easier for your child once they learn the proper oral hygienic methods. After all, healthy teeth are clearly easier to care for than unhealthy teeth.
Cavities can develop as early as when the first tooth erupts, so caring for your baby’s gums and teeth once they develop is vital.
Cavities form when little to no oral care tactics are put into place. Without an oral health routine, oral bacteria will take over the mouth and literally rot and eat away at the teeth.
How Do Baby Teeth Appear?
Baby teeth come out usually between six months to one year following the birth of the baby. However, there may be variance in age as to when the primary teeth will start to emerge and the number of teeth that will come out at a given time.
Often, the first baby teeth to emerge are the two front bottom teeth. Then, the two front upper teeth appear. Baby teeth will usually come out two at a time. By age three, a set of 20 baby teeth should be present.
Baby teeth may have spaces between them which is perfectly normal. These spaces help make room for the emergence of the permanent teeth in the future.
How To Care For Baby Teeth
Caring for baby teeth starts even before the first tooth emerges. Parents are advised to wipe the gums of their kids using a clean and damp washcloth or gauze. Here’s how to clean the gums using a washcloth or gauze:
Wrap your index finger with the washcloth or gauze.
Gently rub the baby’s gums using the wrapped index finger.
When the baby teeth come out, parents can start using a soft toothbrush to clean them. The toothbrush must have soft, nylon bristles. If the bristles are not soft enough, soak them in warm water for a few minutes. It is recommended to use a toothbrush that is designed for children as it has a smaller head and better grip.
By age two, parents can use fluoridated toothpaste to supplement the cleaning of the teeth. However, be careful on the amount of fluoride that goes with the brushing. Children are only advised to use a fluoridated toothpaste with fluoride lower than 1,000 parts per million in a small amount such as the size of the baby’s pinky fingernail. Here’s how to brush a baby’s teeth:
With gentle strokes, clean the inside and outside of your child’s teeth.
Clean his or her tongue as well to clear the mouth from bacteria.
It will be better to assist children in brushing their teeth to ensure that all parts of the mouth are cleaned. Additionally, replace their toothbrush regularly, especially when the bristles start to shred or be worn out.
Aside from regular brushing, it is also important to bring kids to the dentist for a routine checkup. As early as six months, kids can already be brought to the dental clinic for their initial checkup. From then, the dentist can advise on the intervals of dental visits and ways to keep the baby teeth healthy such as the use of dental sealants.
It is imperative to have your child’s teeth check as early as possible to prevent problems in the development of the permanent teeth.
Other than the proper care, keeping children healthy through good nutrition is a must to strengthen their immune system to be able to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses. Sugary treats must be kept out of their diet as these can cause cavities in baby teeth. Additionally, pacifier use must be minimized as it can affect the alignment of the teeth.
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.
“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.