A First Time Parent's Guide to Caring for a Baby's Teeth

One of the best features of a baby is his or her smile. Therefore, it’s important that every baby tooth develops properly. Poor dental hygiene in infants could cause tooth loss, illness or speech-development difficulties later in the child’s life.

To make sure your child has the best dental care possible, start to prepare for that first tooth now by practicing safe dental hygiene. Here are some ways you can promote good dental hygiene for your baby.

Most newborns are born without teeth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start good dental hygiene habits early. Begin brushing your newborn’s gums with gauze or a washcloth and water. By rinsing this area, you prevent bacteria from harboring in gum openings. Try this brushing method after your baby’s last daily feeding. Don’t worry about using toothpaste for babies under six months.

When your baby gets his or her first tooth, clean the tooth with a baby toothbrush and water. It’s best if you can brush after the first and last meals of the day. If your child reaches for the toothbrush and tries to help, let him or her brush for a few seconds. This practice will instill good dental hygiene habits in children as they grow.

Preventing Tooth Decay
Giving your baby a bottle of milk before bed could lead to permanent tooth damage. If possible, avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle of formula, milk or juice. These drinks encourage bacteria in the mouth to multiply, and tooth decay often results. If your baby needs a bottle at night and is older than six months, consider filling the bottle with water rather than milk.

You can also prevent tooth decay by limiting consumption of sweet foods, such as these:

  • Breads
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit
  • Juice
  • Pasta
  • Pretzels

Keep in mind that most foods with starch or sugar can contribute to cavities. However, it’s fine for your child to eat those foods as part of a well-balanced diet.

When you need to give your child these types of foods, serve them at mealtimes. Repeated chewing dislodges most of the food particles from his or her teeth. Similarly, you can serve these foods with water to ensure the sugars don’t stay on the child’s teeth for too long.

Watching for Emerging Teeth
You can expect your child’s first tooth to emerge when he or she is between 3 and 12 months old. Most babies get their first tooth by the time they are six months old.

Sometimes babies feel sick or uncomfortable when they get their first teeth. You can alleviate some pain by offering a cold teething ring or massaging the sensitive area with a washcloth. Always consult with your doctor before you give your baby any pain relievers.

Visiting the Dentist
Clean teeth aren’t the only benefit your baby gets from an early trip to the dentist. Some studies suggest children who visit the dentist by their first birthday require fewer fillings compared with children whose first dentist visit occurs at age two or three. Making early trips to the dentist also helps your child feel more comfortable during future appointments.

At your child’s dental appointment, ask your dentist for guidance on managing habits that affect teeth, such as thumb sucking or pacifier use. Additionally, your dentist may recommend putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth to help them develop properly.

Use these healthy dental practices to make sure your baby’s teeth grow in healthy and strong. Teaching proper oral hygiene will also help your child develop great dental habits that he or she will benefit from throughout life.