How To Care For Your Baby's Teeth And Gums
For most babies, their first teeth start to show at around six months of age. Some are early teethers, as early as three months, while other babies can also be late teethers at 12 months. By the time the child is three years old, all their 20 teeth will have already been complete.
Notwithstanding that fact, it isn’t to say that you should only start caring for your child’s teeth when they turn three. Good oral health begins even when they’re infants. Taking care of them while they are young helps pave the way for healthy adult teeth.
If you’re looking for insights on how to care for your baby’s teeth and gums, you’ve come to the right place. This article gives you a comprehensive run-down of all the information you need to gather.
Start By Brushing Your Baby’s Gums
Oral health is about maintaining healthy oral habits. You can establish this kind of care for your baby’s teeth and gums at home. Pediatric dentists from Alligatordentist.com believe that starting your infant’s oral health journey will curb potential dental problems.
How do you brush your baby’s gums? For breastfed babies, the milk is watery enough to clean their gums and mouth. Formula-fed babies, however, need extra care and attention. Formula milk isn’t less healthy for your baby, but it may contain more sugar than breastmilk, promoting the risk of bacteria in their mouth.
Cleaning their gums is imperative to their oral health, and doing this is quite easy. You can simply wrap a clean gauze or washcloth around your finger, wet it with water, and massage your finger around your baby’s gums. You can do this once or twice a day after your baby’s bath.
Understand What Teething Is
For first-time parents, the horror stories of a baby’s teething phase are all too familiar. You hear so many parents talk about how fussy the infant gets. Or that the baby is extra clingy and you won’t have any opportunity to put them down. Then, there’s the pain, discomfort, and sometimes fever that your baby will experience.
Other babies might also suffer from diarrhea due to bacterial infection. The teething stage will also have your baby stuffing their fingers or toys in their mouth more frequently.
But that’s only the beginning. To be able to give good oral care and assistance to your baby during that phase, you have to understand what teething is. The signs may not be universally the same for all. If you notice any sudden change in your baby’s behavior, then your best recourse is to see their pediatrician. They can give you the best insight and advice on whether they’re teething or experiencing a different developmental milestone.
Here are useful tips when caring for a teething baby:
- Give your baby something firm, like a healthy, sugar-free rusk, for them to chew.
- Gently rub your baby’s gum area with your teeth – be sure to wash your hands first.
- Give your child something cold to chew and bite on, like a frozen teething ring.
Learn How To Brush Your Baby’s Teeth
Once that first tooth has finally sprouted, that signals a new milestone for parents. From simply massaging the gums with a small cloth or gauze, you now pick out their first toothbrush and toothpaste.
Typically, it is also the time for your baby’s first visit with a pediatric dentist. They will walk you through the basics of an infant’s oral health and give you professional advice for cleaning your baby’s teeth and gums.
For instance, they might tell you that the right quantity of toothpaste to use should only be as small as a grain of rice. You can increase this to the pea-sized requirement once your child reaches three years old.
Your dentist may also recommend you use a milder toothpaste with no fluoride until your child learns how to spit out the toothpaste. Fluoride is an essential mineral to protect and strengthen the teeth against cavities. However, swallowing large quantities of fluoride for very young infants may also be dangerous. It's necessary for parents also to teach their kids the habit of spitting toothpaste after every time they brush.
Along this line, here are other useful tips for parents:
- Brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day, once after their morning bath and the second time just before bedtime.
- When brushing your child’s teeth, pay close attention to the back molars, as this is also where most of the cavities will first develop.
- Replace the toothbrush at least once every three to four months.
- If your child has teeth that are too close or too tight to each other, you’ll also need to start flossing their teeth. This is necessary to get any food residue that may get stuck in between the teeth.
What To Do When Your Baby Refuses To Have Their Teeth Brushed
It's normal for babies to refuse something that seems intimidating or new to them, like brushing their teeth. These first few weeks of brushing will be a little bit challenging, and that’s normal. Don't stop, no matter how difficult. It takes time to build a habit. And, given how babies subscribe to habits well, over time, they’ll eventually get used to having their teeth brushed.
When your baby throws a fit, it can be easy to give up and let them be. Don't let this be the case. Dentists would tell you that there are things parents can do when the baby refuses to have their teeth brushed.
Here’s a technique you can do:
- Seek the help of another adult, so you both can sit facing each other, with your knees touching each other.
- Next, lay your baby down such that their head is on the other adult’s lap, and their legs are on your lap. Be sure to hold the baby in place, stable, so they don’t roll and fall.
- The adult who has the baby’s head on their lap is the one assigned to gently open the baby’s mouth, baring the teeth. The other adult will then do the brushing while also distracting and entertaining the child.
It takes two to tango, but that effort will be worth it. Before you know it, your little one will start enjoying brushing their teeth, with just one adult helping out.
Keep Your Child’s Toothbrush Clean
Taking good care of your baby’s teeth and gums also means ensuring their toothbrush stays clean and bacteria-free. Given how toothbrushes are usually damp, it’s not surprising how they can easily become a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.
Henceforth, it’s a must to learn how to keep the toothbrush clean. Here’s a run-down of things you can do:
- If you’re still using a sterilizer for your baby’s feeding bottles and utensils (usually until their first year), you can also pop the toothbrush into the sterilizer.
- Wash it thoroughly after every use, and leave it to air dry.
- Replace the toothbrush once per quarter or when it starts to get frayed or worn out.
Visit A Dentist Regularly
Good oral health begins at home, but this doesn’t mean that you should skip your dental visits. There's no other professional who can clean your kids’ teeth more than a pediatric dentist. Not only are they trained for this job, but they also have the proper tools.
Generally, you must take your kids to their dentist once every six months. Regular visits to your dentist can ensure a good set of teeth, not just to avoid dental problems while they are young, but even when they become adults.
Feed Your Baby The Right Food
Most parents agree that too many sweets are bad for their baby’s teeth. You know what to avoid, but do you also know about teeth-friendly food and nutrients your kids need for oral health? It’s not just calcium that is good for the teeth but other minerals and nutrients as well. Those include:
- Vitamin C
Different bacteria can live and thrive in your baby’s teeth and lead to gum diseases like gingivitis. This fact is the reason why you need Vitamin C for your teeth. Good fruit sources for this vitamin are oranges, papaya, and lime.
Generally, babies will need the following quantity of Vitamin C as a daily requirement:
- For babies until six months, an average of 40mg is needed
- For babies from six to twelve months, an average of 50 mg is advised
Here are some examples of baby food you can prepare for infants below 12 months. You can serve these vegetables and fruits in puree form or small slices if your baby prefers baby-led weaning.
- ¼ cup of red bell pepper;
- ¼ cup of papaya;
- ¼ cup of strawberries;
- ¼ cup of cooked broccoli
- Milk And Cheese
Milk is a good source of calcium, so this is a no-brainer. But did you know that they're also good sources of Vitamin D and Phosphate? Here are some of their health benefits:
- Reducing the risk of tooth decay
- Raising the pH level in the mouth
- Lowering acid levels
It’s no problem if your baby is breast-fed or formula-fed. What matters most is that your baby receives the appropriate quantity of milk needed, depending on their age. This is something you should discuss with your pediatrician.
Cheese, on the other hand, can be given to your baby in small strips or slices. Babies who follow baby-led weaning will enjoy having cheese as a type of finger food or snack.
- Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are good sources of natural fat. This is good for your teeth as it can help shield the teeth against bacteria. Natural fat serves as a coating to strengthen the enamel of your teeth and make them more resistant to bacteria.
Egg yolks are rich in Vitamin D. Your child needs it to improve its teeth’s ability to absorb calcium and phosphate. Phosphates promote the formation of tooth enamel.
There are many ways for you to feed eggs to your little one. Many parents like to incorporate boiled eggs into their baby’s porridge or soft food. You can also cut it up into small slices for your baby to eat.
Avoid The Food Dentists Hate
Apart from all the high-sugar treats children go crazy about, there are other common household dishes that dentists hate. While you can’t fully avoid feeding these to your kids, you can at least try to minimize the occurrence. They're sugary and sticky and are hard to brush off.
Here’s a list of those food items:
- Gummy bears;
- Potato chips;
Get To Know What Causes Tooth Decay In Children
Some parents still believe the false notion that it’s okay to have cavities on milk teeth, as they’ll simply fall out anyway. Tooth decay is very prevalent in children, so parents need to understand what causes them.
Remember that it’s not just about their oral health. The bacteria causing their cavities can enter the body and affect the child’s overall health. In rare cases, it can lead to tooth abscesses which may worsen and lead to life-threatening diseases.
That fact alone should be more than enough reason for parents to care about their baby’s teeth and gums. With that, here are the top culprits of tooth decay in children:
- When acid-producing bacteria infect the baby’s mouth;
- When the child’s teeth and gums are exposed to liquid or food other than water for long periods
- Failure to brush regularly
Your baby’s teeth are both an exciting and stressful milestone, both for the baby and the parents themselves. After all that fuss and drooling, now their first tooth finally erupts. This is where the parents’ responsibility to care for their baby’s teeth starts. As parents, you can do so much to ease the discomfort brought about by teething to your baby while taking good care of their pearly whites as well. As the guide above would show you, it’s all about taking it one step at a time – one tooth at a time. Most importantly, remember that you don’t have to be alone in this pursuit. There’s always your baby’s dentist for you to visit regularly for professional care as well.