You and Your Baby
Why is this so important for baby teeth? During pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels rise and gingivitis is common. Serious gum disease in the mother has been linked to low birth-weight babies and premature births. Crowns of the baby teeth are developing and chewing surfaces of the permanent molars are beginning to form during pregnancy. A balanced diet and use of prenatal vitamins help to develop healthy teeth, while poor nutrition can be associated with tooth decay.
Tooth cavity causing bacteria can be transmitted to the fetus, so it is important to reduce plaque and have teeth free of decay before the birth of a child.
If you are pregnant, be sure to visit your dentist regularly and have your teeth cleaned more often. At birth, bacteria may also be transmitted by a mother kissing her newborn child.
Infant Dental Care
Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth with a clean damp washcloth. Avoid putting baby to bed with a bottle, sippy cup or while breastfeeding. This habit may cause cavities when your baby has teeth especially if milk, formula, juice or other sweetened liquid is used. Only water should be put in a bottle or cup if your child cannot fall asleep without it. While your baby is breastfeeding, wipe the teeth with a damp washcloth as soon as he or she falls asleep and stops sucking. Sharing items such as spoons, pacifiers, toothbrushes and toys can spread cavity-causing germs between caregiver and baby and between babies themselves.
Start a habit of brushing twice a day when the first tooth comes in. Use soft-bristled toothbrushes designed for babies with water or a very small amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride containing toothpaste can be used when your child can spit, usually around 3 years of age.
It is normal for a baby to cry while tooth brushing. Babies also cry when they are bathed, dressed or changed. Be calm and methodical while continuing to give proper care to your child’s teeth. With time your baby will appreciate your gentle attention to their teeth and will allow you to clean without protest.
Baby’s First Visit
To prevent dental problems and learn how to care for your baby’s teeth, we recommend that you visit our office when the first tooth erupts or no later than your baby’s first birthday.
We perform infant oral health exams and parent education. We have found that when a parent begins to take care of their child’s teeth early, they have fewer cavities and are more cooperative for toothbrushing and flossing.
Baby teeth are needed for proper chewing, learning to talk, developing jaw muscles and good self-image.
Cavities in very young children cause pain and can lead to infection. Taking care of your baby’s teeth can prevent severe tooth decay, encourage proper nutrition and ensure a future of healthy permanent teeth.
We recommend that both mom and dad come to their baby’s first visit.
This early appointment is one of the best things you can do for your baby. The doctor will examine his/her teeth, check for decay, make sure teeth are coming in the right order, screen all the oral tissues for diseases and determine proper jaw development.
There will be plenty of valuable information given to the family about how to brush baby’s teeth when they wiggle, nutrition and how it relates to the growth of the teeth, brain and body, and what to expect during teething. We will be able to answer all of your questions and help you and your baby become comfortable with dentistry and our office.
During this appointment you will learn how to effectively clean your baby’s teeth starting with the use of gauze or a washcloth when the first tooth appears and the correct way to safely use an infant toothbrush. Toothbrush sizes and styles can vary. We will help you determine what products are right for your baby. We will inform you when you should start using fluoridated toothpaste or if your child can benefit from other sources of fluoride.
Toddlers are very active, especially when learning how to walk. We know you will appreciate learning what to look for and what to do if an injury to the mouth or teeth occurs.
Many parents are often concerned about thumb and pacifier habits and if they can cause long term damage. We can offer some strategies on how to stop these habits and inform you about the problems that can arise with prolonged sucking behaviors.
We are looking forward to meeting your family and are excited that you are proactive in the health and dental care of your baby. Our dental team will join you in creating a safe, positive and loving environment while meeting the needs of your special little one.
The twenty baby teeth are already forming before birth. The first baby teeth to appear are the two bottom front teeth followed by the two top front teeth. A baby’s front four teeth typically erupt at about six to eight months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until twelve months old. A few children will even have their first tooth appear before six months. The rest of the twenty baby teeth usually appear in pairs along the sides of the jaw until the child is about three years old. The pace and order to their eruption can vary.
The first permanent teeth begin to erupt at about age five to six and include molars behind the back baby teeth along with lower central incisors. Some permanent teeth replace baby teeth and some don’t. This process will continue until approximately age fourteen. Don’t worry if some teeth are a few months early or late as all children have different eruption patterns.
Baby teeth are important as they not only hold space for permanent teeth but they are important to chewing, biting, speech and appearance.
For this reason it is important to maintain a healthy diet and daily hygiene.
When teeth begin erupting, some babies have sore or tender gums and may complain. Gently rubbing your child’s gums with a clean finger or a wet washcloth can be soothing. You can also give your baby a clean teething ring to chew on, but never dipped in sugar or syrup. If your child is still uncomfortable, consult your dentist or physician.
Contrary to common belief, fever is not normal for a teething baby. If your infant has an unusually high or persistent fever while teething, call your physician.
Pacifier and Thumb Sucking
Prolonged use of pacifiers can harm the teeth just like prolonged thumbsucking, although it is often easier to wean a child from a pacifier than a thumb. If the child continues thumbsucking or pacifier use past the age of four, they may develop crooked teeth, a malformed upper jaw and speech problems.
The specific issue will depend on the frequency, duration, intensity and position of the thumb in the child’s mouth. Some helpful hints on breaking the habit include:
- Wait until the time is right (low stress).
- Praise them when they are not sucking (positive reinforcement).
- Use a reward system.
Read “David Decides About Thumbsucking – A Story for Children, A Guide for Parents” by Susan Heitler, PHD