As small and impermanent as baby teeth are, they’re incredibly important. Their key function is to make room for your baby’s permanent adult teeth, so it’s essential that you take very good care of them. If they should decay and fall out before their time, this could lead to pain and the need for expensive and uncomfortable dental procedures. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that your baby has strong teeth and healthy gums to start them out on a lifetime of excellent oral health. Here are a few tips from Parents Magazine and WebMD on how to care for a baby’s teeth.
1) Start Early — Clean Those Gums!
Don’t wait for baby’s first teeth to arrive to start them out on a lifetime of good dental care. If bacteria is allowed to cling on young gums, it can form a sticky substance known as plaque that can damage baby teeth as they pop out. An infant’s teeth are important “placeholders” for their permanent teeth. A baby’s gums can be cleaned with a soft washcloth or a piece of gauze. Moisten it and gently wipe their gums at least 2 times a day. It’s best to clean a baby’s gums after a feeding and before their bedtime.
2) Tips for Brushing Baby Teeth
When teeth first appear, use a specially designed baby’s toothbrush with a small, soft brush, and a large handle. Use a very small amount of toothpaste — only as large a grain of rice. When they’re 3 years old, they can graduate to a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride serves to strengthen the tooth’s enamel and prevent decay.
3) Say No to Sugary Drinks! (or at least, limit them)
Even something seemingly as benign as apple juice may cause tooth decay. The sugar from drinks like fruit juice and soda can attract bacteria, which feeds on that sugar and creates acid that can attack the teeth. Baby bottles should only be filled with breastmilk, formula, or water. And even milk can stay on the teeth and cause problems. If your baby has a bottle or sippy cup during bedtime or naps, keep it filled only with water. You should also never use a sweetener like honey or sugar on a baby’s pacifier.
4) Teething Tips
It may take as long as two years before your baby’s infant teeth are all in. The teething process can be difficult for babies and parents alike. Swollen gums, drooling, and a slightly high temperature are all symptoms. A cold washcloth or cool, clean teething ring may help with discomfort, as can gently rubbing the gums with your finger.
5) Watching Out for Signs of Tooth Decay
As you clean your infant’s teeth, it is also important to watch for telltale signs that there may be baby tooth decay beginning to form. This may appear as white or brown spots on the teeth or pitting. If you see these signs, consult with your pediatrician. They may advise you to take your baby to a pediatric dentist for a more detailed exam. Even if you don’t see any problems, your child’s first dentist appointment should be before their first birthday.