Mouthwash can be one of the most refreshing steps of a daily routine. It removes excess bacteria, strengthens enamel, whitens teeth, and provides instant fresh breath. Mouthwash is the step in a dental oral hygiene regimen that can provide extra protection beyond brushing and flossing. At the Kidd’s Place, we specialize in being able to recognize the different needs presented with kids’ teeth. Here are some things you need to know about your kids using mouthwash.
Fluoride is a mineral commonly used to strengthen teeth and to prevent cavities from forming. It is primarily found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and even most water systems in the U.S.! However, it is not recommended that a child uses fluoride toothpaste regularly until after age 2 (except for a small smear on their toothbrush), and mouthwash until after age 6. This is due to the risk of fluorosis.
Fluorosis is something that can happen in the process of children’s teeth developing. It occurs when there is an overexposure to fluoride. It can cause the outer texture of the tooth to become bumpy, or white or brown spots to appear on the teeth. While fluorosis only causes issues in appearance and can be easily prevented, it can be difficult to remove.
Knowing When the Time is Right
Despite mouthwash not being recommended until age 6, every child is different. That being said, age 6 is just about the time adult teeth are starting to come in and certain baby teeth are beginning to loosen. When introducing a child to mouthwash for the first time, it is most important that they have the self-control and awareness to not swallow it automatically as they would a beverage.
To know whether a child is ready to use mouthwash without swallowing, there is a simple test: using a cup of water by the sink, ask the child to swish it around in their mouth and to spit it out. If they are able to do this without swallowing, then they will most likely be able to do it with mouthwash. Make sure it is used after brushing and flossing. It is not recommended to allow children ages 6-12 use mouthwash unattended.
For additional practice, try supervising your child in the form of a game. Use a mouthwash recommended for children that does not have that strong or harsh taste. With a stopwatch in hand, say “Go!” and time your child for exactly a minute as they swish and rinse. Feel free to cheer them on and have fun with it. When it reaches a minute yell “Stop!” and have them spit. This is excellent practice that engages parents and kids and allows them to adjust to the sensation of swishing.
Mouthwash & Braces
For young teens, braces can be immensely time-consuming when cleaning. Mouthwash is an excellent tool because it can reach places that plaque can build up that is perhaps difficult to reach with floss or a toothbrush alone. It can also loosen very small bits of food that can get lodged in the braces. This does not mean flossing or brushing should ever be neglected; mouthwash is meant as an additional cleaning agent and should not be used exclusively on its own for cleaning, especially since braces present such an opportunity for bacteria and plaque to flourish.
The Long-Term Benefits of Mouthwash
For adults and kids alike, mouthwash is designed to boost the effects of brushing twice daily, and flossing once daily. Talk to your child’s dentist whether a fluoride mouthwash is something that should be introduced to his or her oral hygiene regimen. Most dentists will even have a specific brand or type they would recommend. Instilling these habits early on can ensure a lifelong healthy smile!
Generally speaking, little ones love their binkies. They satisfy the “suck reflex” babies often have associated with bottles and breastfeeding. This provides a calming and soothing effect, which is helpful at night and at naptimes especially if a baby is fussy or fighting sleep.
It is not a surprise therefore that parents are advocates for soothers as well. Pacifiers often provide some peace and quiet and can help a baby get to sleep while being rocked or held. What’s more, although no exact reason has been proven, there has been a direct correlation in many studies conducted between pacifier use and lower rates of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Dental Health & Pacifiers
There are pros and cons to pacifier use, and every child and parent is different. There is no set age or set time recommended by experts, as many of them differ in opinion.
As long as an infant is able to break his or her binky habit by the time multiple teeth begin to grow in, there shouldn’t be any reason the pacifier should affect their long-term dental health. This is especially true if a child is reduced to only using it at night or naptimes.
Pacifiers can help with teething and soothing the gums but they should never be dipped in juice as this can cause cavities on baby teeth. Some babies do not need a binky as much as others. If a baby is able to be soothed without one it is best to not force the habit upon a child before attempting soothing in other ways – rocking, feeding, etc.
Unfortunately, many toddlers get into such a habit of using the pacifier that not only will they not stop asking for it, but after a parent finally takes it away, they can develop the habit to suck their thumb. Prolonged habits of thumb-sucking can eventually cause misalignment as teeth are growing in. If the thumb-sucking continues, it could call for the need for braces later on.
#1 Take it Away Early
Reportedly, some parents have taken a pacifier away as young as 3 months old, suggesting that it is much easier to stop the habit of a newborn than a toddler. Other parents recommend simply limiting it at around 3-6 months old, strictly to bedtime and naptime. Of course many would make exceptions to this – long car rides or airplane trips – but it is believed by many that the younger, the better. Weaning the pacifier does not always work for older children and can cause confusion and arguing.
#2 Make It Defective
One of the ways to stop a child from wanting their pacifier is to “break” it. It is never recommended to cut the tip of a binky with a scissors, as small pieces off it can break off and pose a choking hazard. However, by simply taking a thumbtack or needle and poking a small hole at the tip, air will freely pass through. This will cause the child to think it is broken as it will no longer satisfy the sucking reflex.
#3 Use them to “Buy” Something Else
If there is something your child desperately wants, be it a new toy or a pet goldfish, explain to them that it can only be purchased by the Binky Bank. Help them gather up all the pacifiers in your home and put them in a container to be offered in exchange for the item. As they physically donate to the Binky Bank they will be reminded that there are no more pacifiers in the house and they will better understand prioritizing by giving up something they want for something they want more.
#4 Set a Time & Stick to It
Whatever you as a parent personally decide is the right time for you and your child, schedule a date that they will no longer use the pacifier. You could use a memorable day that could indicate a milestone for your child – for example, their 3rd birthday, followed by a statement such as “big girls/big boys don’t need binkies!” Up until that time remind them of the day they will no longer be able to use their pacifier. This will give them time to accept it and process through it, as giving up the habit cold turkey can be very difficult for some children. Once you have made a decision, do not change your mind! There may be a few times after this day that they will ask for their binky again, but remind them of the time they became a big kid and stand your ground.
#5 Give it Away
Similar to the Binky Bank, but instead with a giving mentality. If your child is old enough to understand the concept, explain to your child that there are children younger than them who need their pacifiers, and that they are too old to keep theirs. As you encourage them to press toward the decision of giving them away it may be helpful if there is a younger cousin or neighbor toddler to use as an example. Round up all the pacifiers in your home with your toddler and leave them for the “Binky Fairy” at night who hands them out to new babies being born. If it is around the holiday season, make the suggestion of leaving them for Santa Claus.
Is your baby teething? Pediatricians have stated that infants typically feel their very first tooth emerge anywhere between 4-8 months, the average being around 7 months. There are many symptoms for teething, but luckily can be easily remedied!
While some symptoms of teething are very common, such as slight temperature, crankiness, biting, loss of appetite, and drooling, some babies can even develope a facial rash, begin to nightwalk (as teething can cause restlessness), rub their ears, and appear to have bruising under the gums. According to the magazine What To Expect, these are nothing to be worried about, and can be a sure sign that a little one is going to get their first tooth soon.
How to Soothe Your Infant During Teething
Teething rings, gum rubbing, or any kind of chewing is called counter-pressure, and can help gently break down gums so the tooth can break through. As a parent, it is encouraged to massage the place on your baby where the teeth are coming in and to use foods like popsicles or frozen fruits during this time – not only does it help the child to chew more, but the cold temperature can relieve those areas of sensitivity.
Infant Tylenol or Acetaminophen can be effective when extreme discomfort occurs, but do not use before consulting your pediatrician.
Whatever the old wives’ tales say, do NOT dip your child’s pacifier in whiskey! Even the smallest amount can sedate the baby which can be very dangerous.
How to Care for Baby Teeth
Infant teeth may be temporary, but they can still decay and rot like adult teeth can! Between the ages of 1-3 years old a child will grow 20 teeth. After that, most children won’t lose their baby teeth for quite a few years, which means they need to be cared for to last. Once an infant’s first teeth have emerged, begin gently brushing and flossing their teeth at least once a day until they are old enough to brush on their own. This will help condition them to establish good dental hygiene habits – a daily practice that will last a lifetime. Dentists recommend using tap water with infants as it contains fluoride. It is not recommended to use fluoride toothpaste until age 2 because too much of it can lead to brown and white spots appearing on teeth.
Make sure your child does not fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup full of juice or milk as it can also be damaging if it sits in their mouth for hours at a time (plaque buildup which can lead to cavities).
Be sure take your child to their first dental exam by age 1 (we recommend the Kidd’s Place!) Twice yearly teeth cleanings are highly recommended by all dentists for children and adults alike.
Tooth sensitivity can be a pain in the… mouth. It can take root, quite literally, and linger for awhile, making anything hot or cold quite uncomfortable to consume. If you’ve ever experienced sensitivity in your teeth, you can only imagine what it might be like for your little ones.
Sensitivity is often the result of loss and wear of the protective outer layer of the tooth known as enamel. Enamel covers the cementum of the tooth, or the surface layer of the tooth root. When this is worn away, your tooth’s dentin is exposed which is full of tiny tubes with nerves running through them, and exposed nerves lead to sensitivity and pain when anything hot, cold, or sugary comes in contact. There are several reasons why this could happen to you or your child’s teeth:
Top Causes of Sensitivity
Cavities are a result of decay and breakdown of the enamel and tooth itself, especially if left untreated. They are the most common cause for dental pain.
Brushing too roughly
kids can be a bit rough with their toothbrush which can gradually wear away on the enamel. Kids with braces tend to brush roughly in a back-and-forth motion near gum lines which can also cause inflamed gums along with sensitive teeth. Be sure to replace toothbrushes often and purchase soft-bristled ones. Teach your child to brush softly so not to “squish their bristles”. A good way to know if your child is brushing too hard is to take a look at their toothbrush. Have the bristles splayed?
Receding gum line
Decay can cause gum disease and also receding gum lines. If your child complains of sensitivity or pain near their gum line, this could be the cause.
Depending on your child’s age and growth and loss of adult teeth, this could also cause some temporary sensitivity. New teeth are not accustomed to air and differing temperatures of food and beverages but should acclimate within a couple weeks.
Grinding teeth or clenching the jaw can cause microfractures in the tooth, as well as a sore jaw!
Pressure from mild sinus infections, allergies, or bacterial congestion can cause a feeling similar to tooth sensitivity. If there is history of allergies or sinus trouble in your family, the two could be related. Tapping the tooth lightly may help determine if the sensitivity is related. If a sensation is present, it likely isn’t sinus or allergy related.
Acidic food and drinks
It may not seem obvious, but acidic foods and drinks can break down the enamel over time and give way to sensitivity. Think oranges, pickles, juice, soda… limit some of these foods and also remind your child to drink some water after eating, which is always a good habit to practice, and brush after meals.
What you can do:
Scheduling an appointment with your child’s doctor or pediatrician can help determine the cause of sensitivity. Of course, sensitivity can be bothersome with meals, intake of fluids and even breathing, so what can you do in the meantime?
- Brush gently! Use a soft brush and brush in small, circular motions. Also, brush with lukewarm water to prevent irritating the tooth.
- Note which tooth or teeth are sensitive and around what part of the tooth. Advise your child to chew on the alternate side of their mouth
- Drink room temperature water and warm teas or other hot-serve beverages. Refrain from sugary and acidic fruit drinks.
- Advise your child to breath through their nose, especially if it is cold outside!
- In the case of a sinus infection or allergies, encourage your child to fully sneeze; not to hold their sneeze or plug their nose.
- Try a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, as they contain less abrasives. Do this under the recommendation of your dentist though, as some products are not for use in children under 12.
- Talk to your dentist about a mouthguard if your child grinds their teeth, and help them find a new sleep position. Remind them to “not let their teeth touch” apart from chewing to help them understand how to relax their jaw.
If you or your child are experiencing sensitivity, consider all causes such as those we listed and consult your dentist or doctor! He or she can help you determine the cause and give you further tips to help heal and prevent decay and sensitivity.
Your child’s dental health has a direct relation to his/her general health, especially in the early years. Hence, the American Dental Association recognizes the specialty of Pediatric dentistry which is dedicated to looking after children’s oral health from infancy until adolescence, usually up to 18 years of age. Dentists who specialize in children’s dentistry are classified as Pedodontists, though they are more commonly called Pediatric dentists, to keep things simple.
Why Should You Take Your Child to a Pediatric Dentist?
Despite the well-meaning effort of parents in looking after their child’s teeth, cavities and erosion can still occur and may not visible to the untrained eye in most cases. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents take their children to a pediatric dentist within 6 months of eruption of first baby tooth, and no later than the first year. It is never too late to see a dentist, but making the first visit within 6 months to 1 year decreases the chances of developing early cavities and increases the probability for a positive association with the dentist, which can be scary to youngsters! A Pediatric dentist’s office is ready with equipment, usually further specialized for children, such as dental x-rays and exposing solutions that can detect small cavities in the beginning stages, then manage it accordingly by removing it and restoring with a suitable filling material. Similarly, your pediatric dentist can recognize any future tendency of misalignment in your child’s teeth, and can initiate early management by alongside an orthodontist.
Pediatric Dentist or Family Dentist?
Why is it important that your child sees a Pediatric Dentist? They are specially trained exclusively in the anatomy, growth, and developmental problems associated with children. Pediatric dentists take two to three years of additional specialty training specifically for infants, children, teens, and children with special needs. There is a lot to know! Children are not like adults who know and understand why a stranger’s hands are in their mouth. Pediatric dentists know how to talk to and handle small children who are uncomfortable and insecure about having their teeth touched. Offices are also decorated more elaborately along with the equipment to help your child feel as comfortable as possible, compared to a general or family dentistry office. Often, these offices will also have TV’s or pictures placed on the ceiling above the chair and headphones available to listen to audiobooks or music. Pretty fancy!
What Does a Pediatric Dentist Do?
The primary role of a Pediatric dentist is not only to care for, but also educate parents and children on how to care for their teeth! They monitor your child’s oral growth, teach your child the importance of maintaining proper oral hygiene, and the necessary brushing and flossing habits for lifelong tooth and gum health. Frequent checkups by a Pediatric dentist will help greatly in prevention, early diagnosis and management of those dreaded cavities, before they become a big problem. Similarly, toddlers and adolescent children frequently experience dental injuries while playing outdoors, such as tooth avulsion, loosening and soft tissue injuries, all of which are managed by a Pediatric dentist. Emergencies are never planned and can’t be foreseen!
In addition, a Pediatric dentist can also help parents create a preventative diet plan for their child that not only provides them with all the required nutritional components, but also reduces the incidence of caries. Similarly, they can recommend and prescribe fluoride or other necessary supplements to enhance development and health of your child’s teeth.
A Final Word
Not only is it important to have your child under the care of a pediatric dentist, but it’s even more imperative that parents are educated about the health and proper care for their child’s teeth to ensure a healthy check-up. Working together, children can have happy, healthy smiles for a lifetime to come. If you haven’t scheduled your child’s first appointment, or they are due for a follow up, call today! Happy brushing!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tooth decay affects nearly 70 percent of America’s children, before the age of 19! Dental sealants are a highly effective option to help prevent cavities in children. Dental sealants, basically a thin coating over the tooth’s surface, have been proven to be both safe for children prone to cavities and cost effective for parents. Sealing is a simple and painless dental procedure in which the dental surface is isolated from the environment of the oral cavity in order to prevent the formation of cavities. Basically, it covers very deep pits and fissures on the biting surface of molars and premolars, since they have the potential of retaining debris that can not be removed by simple brushing.
How is a tooth Sealed?
The sealing procedure consists of plaque removal, isolating the teeth with a rubber dam, applying an acid solution on dental surface and washing it after 15 seconds, applying the sealant in liquid form and polymerizing it with ultraviolet light for 10-20 seconds. The final step is to check the sealing height by using paper joint. After the procedure is completed, the patient is free to consume food and liquids. If the enamel in pits and fissures is damaged, the affected enamel is removed first, then the normal procedure for sealing is continued.
Does your child need sealants?
If your child’s on molars and premolars have deep pits and fissures, it’s better to seal them, in order to prevent future or further damage. At the earliest, sealing is recommended 6 months after a teeth’s eruption, on teeth with deep pits and fissures, especially molars and premolars.
The age ranges for sealant application is:
- 3-6 months for primary molars
- 6-7 years for 1st permanent molar
- 11-13 years for 2nd permanent molar and premolars, this varies from child to child.
- deep retentive pits and fissures
- patient with high risk of caries
- patient undergoing orthodontic treatment
- yellow/brown stained pit and fissures on the tooth surface
Dental sealants serve as a barrier to seal the cracks and spaces on tooth surfaces from any small food particles or bacteria that may otherwise cause cavities.
Alongside brushing twice- daily with fluoridated toothpaste, healthy diet low in sugars and visiting your dentist every 6 months to monitor teeth an existing sealants, dental sealants are 100% effective in preventing cavities in your little one’s mouth. Happy brushing!
Dental caries, or cavities, that occur in infants and very young children are usually known as early childhood caries, or bottle feeding syndrome, the later being the less common. The process is initiated when liquids rich in fermentable sugars, such as breast or formula milk and juices, are given to the child in a bottle. These sugars tend to attach to the surface of teeth, which are then broken down into simple sugars by caries- causing bacteria in the mouth. The result is an increase in oral acidity which then causes de-mineralization, and eventually caries in the teeth.
How can Bottle Feeding Result in Cavities?
Children who sleep with a bottle of anything other than water in their mouth are at the highest risk of developing early childhood caries. This is because their teeth are constantly exposed to a high level of sugars present in the liquid. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, bottle-feeding syndrome occurs because of a persistent interaction between the cariogenic bacteria and carbohydrates. The American Dental Association states that “what” you put in your child’s feeding bottle is less important. The more important thing, is “how frequently” you give it to your child, since repeated exposure to sugars is more dangerous than giving sugary drinks once or twice a day.
Similarly, some parents who dip their child’s pacifier into sugary syrups, or juices in an attempt to sooth their child. While this practice seems to be an effective way of calming the child down, it is highly detrimental to the teeth. For the whole duration the child keeps the pacifier in the mouth, the teeth are continuously exposed to sugars that can cause tooth decay.
What Are the Symptoms?
The teeth furthest in the back of the mouth, with more of a flat surface are most likely to become infected with caries. The upper anterior teeth are the most commonly affected with caries; however, the lower anterior and posterior teeth are just as vulnerable. The symptoms can vary depending on the severity and location. Some of these symptoms could include:
Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
Visible holes or pits in your teeth
Brown, black or white staining on any surface of a tooth
Pain when biting down
As a parent, you may not be aware that your child is forming a cavity until it is already present, requiring a fill. This is why it is important to begin your child’s dental visits at age one. If any of these symptoms are present, it is best to see your child’s dentist.
How to Prevent It?
The first step in preventing the development of bottle feeding syndrome is to create feeding times for your child to have the bottle for a shorter amount of time, rather than an all-day snack so to speak. Also, purchase juices made for children with less sugar content, or water down the juice. Additionally, parents must develop a habit of brushing their child’s teeth, starting from the time their first teeth appear. Your child’s teeth become vulnerable to dental caries as soon as they erupt, which usually occurs at the age of 6 months. Also, if your child is dependent on a bottle to sleep, replace the juice with water, and work to eventually wean from a bottle at night, altogether. Visit your child’s dentist once they observe the emergence of pearly white teeth in their mouth, usually by one year old. Regular visits to the dentist are recommended in order to prevent development of caries, which is most often not visible to the naked eye, unless it has progressed to an advanced stage.
The foremost principle in management is to immediately correct the dietary habits of the child. The milk teeth are ultimately replaced by the permanent teeth, and hence may not require restoration if the eruption of permanent teeth is expected in near future. It must be remembered that if primary teeth are lost at a very early age, there is a tendency for eruption of misaligned or crooked permanent teeth. Hence, taking care of your child’s milk teeth is very important, not only for the health of the adult teeth, but also for the practice of healthy oral habits.
Losing baby teeth
As parents and caretakers, we often experience just as much discomfort as our little ones do when it comes to teething. From long nights of frequent wakings for teething gel, to a freezer full of popsicles to sooth the gum inflammation, we are more than happy to see that last tooth pop through their little gums! But, after all that hard work, those pesky teeth then begin to fall out. Just when you think you have this tooth-sprouting business done with, you hear, “my tooth is loose!” and it’s a whole new game!
Those words represent another big milestone in your child’s life. Baby teeth have to fall out to make way for permanent teeth to grow; this process can last six or more years from start to finish. Most kids are probably excited to feel their loose, wiggly tooth, and some may worry and wonder if it will hurt. Every child is unique and will react in either fashion. Your response should be as unique as theirs: reassuring them that this is a normal, necessary process, and even showing excitement for them.
First things first
Your child’s 20 baby teeth, which typically come in by age 3, usually fall out in the order in which they came in. On average, kids begin losing teeth at age 5 or 6, but some can lose the first tooth as early as 4 or as late as 7. Since the lower center teeth (lower central incisors) are usually the first to erupt, that means they are usually the first to go as well. The top center pair is next. The middle teeth are usually the first to go (at 6 to 7 years), followed by the ones on either side (at 7 to 8 years). The molars can be lost at any time after that, but will likely be gone between 9 and 12 years. Typically, the teeth will not loosen until the permanent tooth begins to push its way through. These permanent teeth have been growing beneath the gums for some time and eventually dissolve the root of the baby tooth in its path, making it loose.
Think of it like this: the younger the child was when the teeth came in, the earlier they fall out.
It is possible, however, for kids to lose a baby tooth too early, before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt, due to an accident or dental disease. Sometimes a pediatric dentist will put a spacer (a custom-fit plastic placeholder) in the place where a baby tooth fell out too soon until the adult tooth is ready, in order to prevent future spacing problems. If your child begins to lose teeth before 4, you should consult a dentist to make sure there’s no underlying disease.
On the contrary, it is also possible for a child to reach 7 or 8 without losing any baby teeth. In such cases, there’s probably nothing wrong, but it’s a good idea to consult a dentist for X-rays to assess the situation. During the preschool years or shortly after the age of 4, prior to losing their baby teeth, your child’s jaw and facial bones grow to create space between the primary teeth for your child’s permanent, adult teeth to come in. In all, your child will have 28 permanent teeth by the age of 12, sometimes later which is also normal. The remaining four “wisdom teeth” arrive between 17 and 25 years of age.
What to do
So your child has approached you declaring that they have a loose tooth. During these years in your child’s life, his grin will slowly start start to transform, but in the meantime, it will be full of permanent teeth and baby teeth alike. What can you do, and what should you do to help your child through such a loss as this?
- Encourage your child to gently wiggle a their loose tooth. Some loose teeth can actually be rotated because the root underneath has almost completely disintegrated.
- Remind your child not to yank a tooth before it’s ready to fall out on its own because it makes the broken root more vulnerable to infection. No tying-a-string-to-a-doorknob tricks, please! A loose tooth that refuses to come out may need to be pulled by a dentist, though this is hardly ever necessary.
- Just allow nature to take its course! It shouldn’t take much effort, and there should be very little bleeding. Focus on making sure your child is brushing well at the gum line; often the tooth will come out easily during regular teeth brushing.
- Losing baby teeth is seldom as painful a process as teething. If your 5- or 6-year-old complains of pain in the back of his mouth, it’s probably the 6-year molars coming in. (He has no baby teeth there to fall out first). A topical painkiller, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can ease the ache, though it’s unlikely to last long.
- Make it fun! Play the tooth fairy and give your child some quarters for their teeth. Make a pillow or use an envelope to keep them safe!
The new arrivals
The new teeth may look bigger, especially those first few. That’s because they are! Adult teeth also tend to be less white than baby teeth and have pronounced ridges because they haven’t been used yet for biting and chewing. Sometimes, but not often, a couple of new teeth come in before the old ones are gone, creating two rows of pearly whites. This is a temporary stage, sometimes called shark’s teeth. Keep an eye on your child’s progress and if you are concerned, talk to their dentist. Brushing is now more important than ever. You’ll probably need to supervise the process until your child is around 8, and until then he won’t need to use more than a pea-sized dot of toothpaste. Some doctors recommend using toothpaste without fluoride until the child can spit, if tap water contains enough fluoride. Replace toothbrushes every two or three months to reduce harmful bacteria and keep them working at their best. And make sure your child sees a dentist twice a year. As your child wiggles those teeth away, take pictures of all the awkward smiles, and sing, “all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!”
Of all baby’s firsts, brushing should be one of those considered, first! Even those bare newborn gums need to be cleaned as a preventative measure for tooth decay. Below the surface lie tiny teeth, which gradually peek through the gums during the first 2 1/2 years of life. From birth to the the appearance of the first tooth, we say, the sooner the better to brush!
In most cases, babies clearly don’t have teeth from the time of birth. But, when is a good time to begin caring for your baby’s mouth? This is a very important question and one which many parents are unsure.
Good dental care begins at birth, before the teeth are even visible. The American Dental Association suggests that parents begin cleaning their baby’s mouth once a day during the first few days after birth. Despite your infant’s exclusive diet of breastmilk or formula, the gums should be cleaned of the residue. Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after each feeding to remove this residue that can harm erupting teeth. Cleaning your child’s mouth at this early stage will also help them to become accustomed with the whole process, meaning your child may not object to the toothbrush later on!
As your baby grows and changes, so does their need for care. Your child’s primary teeth, sometimes called “baby teeth,” are equally important as their permanent adult teeth and they are also vulnerable to tooth decay from their very first appearance. So why are baby teeth important to care for if they will eventually lose them?
Your baby’s Primary teeth will typically begin to appear between age 6 months and 1 year and caring for these first teeth sets the stage for the health and development of permanent teeth. Though your baby’s primary teeth will fall out, they do serve some important functions: primary teeth help children chew and speak as well as hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.
If you haven’t already established oral care, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that care should be implemented no later than the time the first primary tooth cuts through the gums. This is often an unpleasant time for both babies and parents alike, since many infants will experience teething symptoms prior to “cutting” their first tooth and those to follow. Brushing your infant’s teeth as soon as they surface helps to reduce bacterial colonization. When your baby’s teeth begin to emerge, brush them gently with a soft-bristled, child-size toothbrush and water two times a day. It isn’t absolutely essential to use toothpaste to clean your baby’s teeth; the brushing action itself is the most important part of keeping them clean. As recommended by The American Dental Association, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children two and older is all that is needed. If you prefer to use toothpaste, choose one that is designed specifically for infants after consulting with your child’s dentist.
As tedious as dental care for your baby can be, establishing healthy habits from the start is crucial to the longevity of your child’s oral health. Every parent struggles with their children whether it is getting them to eat broccoli or picking up toys. So how can you make a positive, fun experience for your child that will encourage them to care for their teeth? Younger and older babies alike will be more apt to brush their teeth if you make the entire experience fun.
For your younger baby, it works best to start brushing teeth from the time they are born. This way dental hygiene becomes a part of your child’s daily routine before she becomes the typically combative toddler afflicted with a case of the “no’s.” Allow her to grip the toothbrush and play with it, never force it into her mouth which may cause a negative association and possible gagging. Even if you are using a wet cloth, let your baby touch it as you play or sing with her to make it an enjoyable game.
For your older baby, you might buy an electric toothbrush that’ll do a lot of the cleanup work and enthrall her with the noise it makes at the same time. If you prefer to use a regular toothbrush, take her to the store and let her choose her own toothbrush. Some feature cartoon characters on them that children love. If your baby won’t open her mouth when it’s time to brush her teeth, then try putting a brush in your mouth, since babies love to mimic whatever Mom or dad is doing! Also, make brushing a family activity; let your child watch you as you brush your own teeth, and make the most of teaching your child through your example. If you act as if brushing teeth is one of the most enjoyable things you do in your day, she may chose to enjoy it as well!