Having proper oral health care is essential not just for your dental health, but your general health as well. Gum disease can develop quickly without brushing and flossing daily, which can then turn into a more advanced form of gum disease and lead to tooth loss, infection, and more serious health problems. Oral health for your children begins when they are babies, when their first teeth erupt through the gums.
Taking Care of Your Baby’s Gums
Baby dental care begins with the gums and teething, not just taking care of the teeth when they erupt. If you want your baby to be healthy, make sure you are practicing good oral hygiene from the very beginning. Here are some essential tips for taking care of his teeth and gums.
Keeping the Gums Clean
It is important that you take good care of your baby’s gums even before her first tooth comes through. While brushing won’t happen until a tooth comes in and brushing once two teeth placed together comes in, you should still be cleaning her gums. Clean the gums at least once a day by wiping them gently with a soft washcloth that is wet or with gauze. A good way to remind yourself is to wipe the baby’s gums during each bath in the evening. Don’t use toothpaste, but just wrap the cloth around your finger and rub gently on the gums.
While bacteria can’t get through gums before they open up for a tooth to push through, it is sometimes difficult to know when this is starting to happen. If your baby’s teeth start erupting without notice and sooner than expected, there could be an opening where bacteria can get through. This is why you should start the practice early. It also gets your baby used to having his gums handled and cleaned regularly.
The Different Stages of Teething
If you are cleaning your baby’s gums every day, you will likely begin to feel when a tooth is starting to break through the gums. It is going to feel like a small bump at first, then around the time your baby begins experiencing discomfort, you will start to actually see it coming through the gums. While this can vary, expect to first see teeth erupt when your baby is around six months old. This happens in stages, where certain teeth tend to come in at certain times throughout each stage.
During the first stage of teething, which actually occurs before the teeth start erupting through the gums, the full set of teeth are already grown and sitting beneath the gums. These are known as milk teeth since when they sit below the gums, the baby is usually only drinking milk, formula, or breast milk. This includes their 20 primary teeth, which already sit in the jawbone under the gums. Stage 1 goes from birth to 6 months of age.
When the teeth begin erupting through the gums, which is when your baby starts teething, stage 2 begins. As mentioned previously, this occurs when your baby is around 6 months old. During stage 2, you can expect to see the incisors come through first. These are the two front teeth on the upper and lower rows of rows. You can probably feel the edges of the teeth like bumps beneath the gums before they poke through. It is not unusually to notice signs of teething in your baby even before you realize he has begun teething. It is during this time when you should begin giving your baby soft toys to chew on, called teethers. This can actually help to relieve pain from teething. During stage 2, put a bib on your baby to avoid chest rash.
A few months later, your baby will start to get her primary molars. By this point, a few more teeth might have broken through as well. The primary molars are the teeth located in the back of her mouth. It is not uncommon for your baby to start showing even more signs of discomfort, which is a good time to feel the gums in the back of her mouth to see if she is teething. Fever and diarrhea tend to be common when stage 3 of teething begins.
You can expect stage 4 of teething to begin around 16 months of age and go through until your baby is about 22 months. This is when he will start to get his canine teeth, which are the teeth between the incisors and the molars. Many of the same signs of teething occur during stage 4. At this point, you might see just one or two coming in at a time, though more likely you can feel multiple teeth trying to break through at one time.
The final stage of teething is the fifth stage, in which your baby gets his final molars. Since these are the biggest teeth, this can be the most painful process of teething. It usually starts at around 25 and can go on for 6-7 weeks. A hard vegetable is good to give your baby to chew on, but watch her carefully so she doesn’t choke on it.
Signs That Your Baby is Teething
In addition to feeling and seeing the teeth erupt, your baby will also give a variety of signs that she is teething. The teeth are cutting through the gums, which can be uncomfortable and even painful. While discussing the stages of teething, you got a glimpse into some signs your baby might exhibit during each stage, but it helps to have more of a distinct look at the signs to look for. That way, you can provide relief as soon as possible.
The First Signs of Teething
As was briefly mentioned in the staged of teething, you learned that drooling is a common symptoms. Since drooling can cause rashes, it is important to wipe your baby’s face, chin and neck often. If that drool sticks to his face for too long, it can lead to a rash. You should also give him a bib to wear to keep it from his chest area but also to keep the front of his clothes dry. When you can feel that is shirt or onesie is wet, change it to avoid any rash or discomfort. Other early signs of discomfort during teething include being irritable and crying for no other reason.
Other Signs to Look For
Babies don’t always cry when they are uncomfortable or in pain, but instead show other signs. For example, your baby might be pulling on her ears a lot or not sleeping well. She may also lose interest in food when going through the teething stages. Some signs are less obvious, such as rubbing her face more often or attempting to chew or bite on anything she can find. More obvious signs include seeing a bulging of the gums, feeling a bump on the gums, or actually seeing the teeth erupting through.
When to Bring Your Baby to the Doctor
While teething is a normal occurrence, you should look closely at the signs and take note of when they seem to get worse. If nothing you do calms down your baby, it is time to visit the pediatrician. You should also take him to the doctor if she has a high fever that isn’t going away.
Tips For Getting Your Baby Through Teething
Now that you know what to look for when your baby is teething, it is time to discuss how you can offer your baby some relief. Here are some simple ways to help your baby get through the teething process.
Rub the Gums Gently
When your baby first starts teething, rubbing her gums gently with gauze or a soft cloth can be very soothing. You will already be doing this daily when she gets her bath and also has her gums cleaned, but remember to do this other times of the day when she is especially fussy. Remember to keep her gums clean as well, since bacteria can now get underneath the gums and actually cause plaque before the teeth are fully erupted through the gums.
Offer Teething Toys
You should also have some teething toys for your baby when he is teething. Teething rings are plastic toys that are completely safe and made especially for teething. Anything your baby has against his gums while teething can offer him relief. You will find a variety of other toys as well, such as the popular Sophie Giraffe. Teething necklaces are another good option.
Give Older Babies Something to Chew On
As your baby gets older and becomes a toddler, she can then start eating solid foods. It is at this time when you can give her pieces of hard vegetables that she is able to chew on. You only want to let her chew on it, not try to actually chew and swallow since the pieces will be too big. So stay very close when you give her these. Carrots are usually a good option to start with.
Offer a Chilled Washcloth
During times when your baby has a slight fever and nothing seems to work, you might try a chilled washcloth. This is not only relieving before you put it on his gums and rub gently, but the cooler temperature provides additional relief. Just make sure it isn’t ice cold.
Ask Your Pediatrician About Aspirin
Aspirin is sometimes recommended, but you should talk to your pediatrician first before you give your baby this as a pain relief for teething pain.
Taking Care of Your Baby’s Teeth
When your baby’s teeth start coming in, it is important that you begin taking care of them right away. This includes doing certain things to avoid tooth decay and cavities, as well as brushing their teeth and seeing a dentist. Follow these instructions for keeping your baby’s teeth healthy.
Begin Brushing the Teeth Right Away
As soon as you see the first tooth come in, you should already be ready to start brushing his teeth. You want to get a small baby toothbrush that is easy for you to hold in your hand. Consider the size of the toothbrush handle and the grip, but with a head small enough to fit easily in your baby’s mouth. Here are some simple tips for brushing his teeth:
Use only a small amount of baby toothpaste – Just a very small amount of toothpaste that is meant for babies is needed. However, you do need toothpaste because it contains fluoride, which can protect your baby’s teeth from cavities and decay. A small dot of toothpaste is all that is needed since he probably only has 1 or 2 teeth in the beginning. You can wipe it off the teeth if you used too much, but rinsing isn’t needed when using a small amount.
Brush twice a day – Just like you do with your teeth, you want to brush your baby’s teeth twice a day. Brush in the morning, preferably after the first bottle to get rid of any milk or formula that might lead to cavities, as well as before bed after the final bottle or during bathtime.
Be very gentle with brushing – Since your baby’s gums are still very sensitive from teething, you want to be extremely gentle with brushing. These little baby teeth do not need rigorous brushing to get clean. In the beginning, your baby isn’t even eating solid foods, so there shouldn’t be much food debris you are trying to clean from the teeth.
Brush the gums and tongue – If your baby will let you, brush his gums and tongue as well. This helps to further get rid of bacteria in his mouth and gives him fresh breath as well.
Don’t Put Her to Bed With a Bottle
One of the worst things you can do for your baby’s teeth is get in the habit of putting her to bed with a bottle. While this sometimes seems like a good idea because she is relaxed or falls asleep while using the bottle, that milk can then sit on her teeth all night, which ultimately leads to decay. Milk and formula is made with sugar, which is terrible for teeth, even baby teeth. Juice is another big no-no for nighttime bottles. If she needs a bottle to fall asleep, it should only have water in it.
Offer Him Water Between Meals
To reduce bacteria and tooth decay from milk, juice, and the solid foods your baby begins eating, fill up bottles with water and let him drink out of that between each meal or milk bottle. This is going to help him naturally rinse his teeth and gums from all the sugar and food debris caught in his mouth.
Avoid Foods That Can Decay Her teeth
There are some foods that are often given to babies and toddlers, but can actually increase her risk for tooth decay. This usually includes foods with sugar, but some others are also included. Try to keep these foods to a minimum, or offer water afterward:
* Fresh or dried fruit
* Peanut butter and jelly
Early Dental Issues to Be Aware of
As long as you are taking good care of your baby’s teeth and gums, you shouldn’t have many problems. However, there are some dental issues to be aware of during teething and beyond. They include:
Cracked or Knocked Out Tooth
Dental emergencies aren’t extremely common in babies with their new teeth erupting through, but it does happen. If your baby is playing in the living room and accidentally trips and knocks her mouth against the side of a coffee table, she could crack or break one of her baby teeth. You know how quickly this type of thing can happen. It is important that you contact a pediatric dentist right away, stop the bleeding on your own with gauze, and try to put the tooth in the socket until you can get help.
Bottle Tooth Decay
The reason you shouldn’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk or juice is because this can lead to bottle tooth decay. It is one of the more causes of decay and cavities in baby teeth. Some babies can have it so bad that the tooth gets infected an they actually need a root canal. You definitely don’t want your baby going through this at such a young age, whether a filling or a root canal, so be very careful to avoid it.
This might not seem like a dental issue, but it can lead to orthodontic problems. Many people who have overbites actually have them because they sucked their thumbs as babies and young children. This puts a lot of pressure on the teeth and can ultimately lead to them growing in at an angle. Overbites and other bite alignment problems lead to misaligned teeth, improper bite, and the need for early orthodontic intervention.
Premature Loss of Teeth
If your baby loses a baby tooth before the permanent tooth has pushed it through, this can create a problem. The permanent tooth might start growing through the gums, but not in the space intended. To avoid this from happening, space maintainers might be used, which hold open that space until the permanent tooth makes it through it.
A bad bite, also called malocclusion, occurs when the teeth are misaligned or overcrowded. This can cause the jaw to have problems meeting, which then creates a ‘bad bite’. It is more noticeable as your child ages, usually starting around age 6 or 7. You should be aware of this and look for signs of bite problems so you can get your child to an orthodontist as soon as possible.
When You Should See Your Pediatric Dentist
Aside from taking good care of your baby’s oral health, you also need to bring him or her to the dentist. A pediatric dentist specializes in the unique needs of babies and children and their growing teeth. The pediatric dentist is experienced in working with children, so they know how to make your baby comfortable. You want to bring your baby to the dentist around their first birthday, or after their first tooth has erupted through the gums.
Why This is So Vital
There are a few reasons why you need to make sure you keep up with the first dental appointments. The first reason is because it gets your baby comfortable with going to the dentist. A lot of children and teens are afraid of going to the dentist, which is a bad habit that can follow them around until adulthood. Once they make their own choice, they might stop going, which results in a lot of dental problems. Your baby needs to feel comfortable with the dentist, which is why you bring him early to a pediatric dentist who is gentle and has a good reputation with children.
Another good reason to bring him early is to get a fluoride treatment and sealant. The dentist is able to provide these on the surface of your baby’s teeth during one of the first appointments, which helps protect the teeth from decay and cavities.
What Happens During the First Visit
Here are some things you can expect from the first dental visit with the pediatric dentist:
The introduction – The dentist will first meet your child and will not rush into examining her mouth. He wants her to feel comfortable with him, the office and the rest of the staff first.
A simple examination is done – Once she feels more comfortable, a very simple examination is done. This simple involves looking into her mouth, checking the condition of her gums and teeth, and looking for any signs of decay. X-rays may or may not be done during the first visit.
There may be a gentle cleaning – If any decay is found on the teeth, the dentist may do a simple cleaning, though it is a very gentle one. No major scraping or anything painful is going to be done.
How to Encourage Your Toddler to Brush
As your child gets a little older, he will then start brushing his own teeth. In the beginning, you should have him try brushing his own teeth, but help him and supervise each time. Do not let him do this on his own until you are 100 percent sure he will get his teeth clean every time. Getting a toddler to brush is a little bit like pulling teeth – mind the pun – but there are ways to encourage the oral health routine.
The earlier you begin brushing with your toddler, the easier it will be. When you start cleaning your baby’s teeth and gums at a young age, they get used to the practice, and it becomes routine. Your toddler will quickly learn this is something to do at the beginning and end of each day.
Get a Fun Toothbrush
Let your toddler pick her own toothbrush and toothpaste. Take her to the store, show her the ones she can pick from, and let her choose her favorite. There are a variety of fun designs for children, from stars and glitter, to their favorite cartoon characters.
Make a Game Out of it
You can also try turning tooth brushing into a little game. Turn on a song and have your toddler brush his teeth until the song is over, or get the family together in the bathroom while everyone dances to the music and brushes their teeth together. Making it a family event is another great way to encourage toddlers to brush.
Oral health is extremely important for babies, even if they have just 1 or 2 teeth so far.