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Caring for baby’s teeth

This article is written by the clinic and is published in the Fall 2009 edition of Urban Baby and Toddler.

As parents, we make sure our babies’ and toddler’s skin is protected from UV rays, we help their bodies grow by feeding them healthy foods, and we stimulate their minds with educational toys and activities. But what about their teeth? From gummy grin to milestone-reaching toothy smirk, everyone loves a baby’s healthy smile. Start your baby’s smile off right.

Sometimes problem with teeth is difficult to see and by the time they are visible, it is usually too late. This is likely one of the reasons that tooth decay is still so prevalent among children.

According to Canadian Dental Association’s publication–Those Important Baby Teeth, “Baby teeth last for about one-sixth of a person’s life (about 12 years). A child could not act normally if some other part of his body was missing for this long. It’s the same with baby teeth. He needs 20 healthy ones…Chewing on well-formed teeth helps the jaw bones to grow properly…Without the full number of teeth, your child’s jaws would be working off balance and could grow that way…The baby teeth are nature’s pathfinders for the normal growth of many of the permanent teeth. Premature loss of a pathfinder tooth allows tipping and drifting of neighbouring teeth… The permanent tooth could be forced out of proper position (teeth ended up crooked)…” And we all know that your babies need all teeth to learn to speak and eat properly.

Dental decay is a continuous, progressive process, which means that once tooth decay begins, it will not fix itself. It can start as soon as there is tooth in the mouth. The key to prevention is good oral care habits, both for you and your babies. Start early, even before your babies have teeth.

The Gums

Before the first tooth appears, care for your baby’s gums. Start cleaning your baby’s mouth every day by wiping gently all around the gums with a soft, damp cloth. Besides removing bacteria, this will massage the gums and help ease teething discomfort (some babies have no teething discomfort at all, but many do). This will also develop the habit of oral care for yourself and your baby. It will also help you later on when you start brushing your baby’s teeth.

You can lay your baby on the changing table, on the sofa or on your lap as long as you can see the inside of the mouth easily. Try different angles and be creative in getting your baby to open his mouth. Just make sure your baby won’t fall. Remember, your baby is going to need your help cleaning every day. So find a way that you can do it comfortably. When your baby has a good oral environment, he or she is at less risk for oral disease.

The First Tooth

The first tooth will appear when your baby is about 6 months of age. It is a big deal. Celebrate it! Take a picture and use it as a screensaver. Send it to friends and families. While you are having all these fun, also let the brushing begins.

Use a baby size toothbrush to brush your baby’s tooth twice daily. Make sure you brush all sides of the tooth and where the tooth meets the gum. The saliva in the mouth contains the mineral that repairs the beginnings of tooth decay but it needs two elements: a clean mouth and time. So make it a habit to keep the mouth clean between meals by wiping the gums clean after each meal. It takes less than a minute.

Have baby’s teeth examined by a dentist. You don’t need to rush to a dentist the day the first tooth appears. However, it’s best to have your baby’s teeth looked at by a dentist within six months after the first tooth erupts, or when your baby reaches his first birthday.

The bottle should not be used for soothing baby to sleep. Instead, use other methods of soothing, like rocking or singing. If you must use a bottle to soothe baby to sleep, make sure you put only water-never anything sweet (milk or juice)-in it. Infants who sleep with a bottle containing milk or juice often develop “Nursing Bottle Syndrome,” where severe cavities develop in a concentrated area on the back of all front teeth, leading to pain and premature lost of teeth.

Don’t give up

When a baby smiles at you and shows a few cute bright-white incisors, you naturally smile back don’t you? Don’t just love this healthy smile, take care of it. A successful life begins with a healthy smile.