Caring for Baby’s Teeth
Looking at your new baby, you may find it hard to believe you already need to think about caring for what’s inside his tiny little mouth. The truth is, you do. Proper oral hygiene starts in infancy, so here are a few tips to ensure your baby’s gums and incoming pearly whites are in good shape.
- The best way to care for a baby’s gums is to gently wipe them with a clean, damp cloth, especially after feeding. Both bottled milk and breast milk contain sugars that can lead to tooth decay, so proper gum and tooth care is essential for all babies.
- Once that first, tiny, adorable tooth pushes through, you can buy Baby’s very first toothbrush! You do not need to use toothpaste at first. Simply wet the toothbrush with water to clean his new tooth and to introduce the idea of brushing. If Baby resists brushing initially, stick with it. He will become used to it and will likely grow to enjoy the soothing feeling of chewing on a toothbrush as more teeth pop through.
- As these tiny teeth prepare to emerge, you will notice Baby wants to chew on everything. Dr. Fales Pediatric Dentistry of Olathe recommends the use of teething rings but says to avoid teething biscuits, as they contain sugar that can lead to tooth decay.
- Once Baby is accustomed to brushing, you can introduce non-fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride toothpaste should only be used when the child is older and knows how to spit it out. Only a tiny drop of toothpaste (about the size of Baby’s pinky fingernail) is needed to adequately brush your child’s teeth.
- Avoid sending your baby to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, as this can lead to “baby bottle decay.” Anything other than water in a bottle will sit on Baby’s teeth all night long and eat away at his enamel. If your child needs a soother for comfort, you can try a bottle with water or a pacifier.
- Jenkins & LeBlanc Dentistry recommends taking your child to his first dentist appointment around the age of one or soon after the first teeth erupt. Establishing some trust between your child and his dentist early on, as well as having a dentist check his mouth for possible issues like tooth decay and mouth malformations, are priorities.
- Finally, establishing a healthy diet for your child is an important part of oral hygiene. Children should eat a very limited amount of sugary foods and juices. Provide foods from all of the food groups, ensuring your child fills his belly with milk, meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and grains rather than candy, fruit snacks and juice. Making good food choices helps prevent decay and promotes healthy teeth and gums.
Olathe mom Karen Johnson has three children, ages 6, 4 and 2. She writes at The21stCenturySAHM.com.