Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your infant’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your son or daughter will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Caring for Gums
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your little one’s gum tissue. This practice both clears your son or daughter’s mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.
Baby’s First Tooth
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled brush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, or a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.
Brushing with Toothpaste
The American Dental Association recommends using fluoridated toothpaste as soon as the first tooth comes in. For children ages 0-3 years, a smear of fluoridated toothpaste, the size of a grain of rice, is recommended. For children 3-6 years, an amount the size of a pea is recommended. (These recommendations were updated February 2014.)
Don’t give your toddler any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital.
Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle or sippy cup; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.
First Visit to the Dentist
It’s recommended that you bring your little one in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption — usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems.
We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your youngster’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one’s teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
Setting a Good Example
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits.
As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.) Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to clean their own teeth thoroughly until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job.
Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!