Many parents have questions and concerns regarding oral care for their infants and small children, especially those parents who are raising children for the first time. It’s natural to be confused about how to care for baby teeth, as infants obviously have different oral care needs than those of children 2 years of age and older. Nevertheless, infants begin to show tooth eruptions around 4 months of age, and these pearly-white baby teeth need to be cleaned on a daily basis to prevent accumulations of bacteria and plaque. The following paragraphs should answer many of the common questions about caring for infant teeth. Obviously, if you have more questions or specific concerns that are not addressed below, you can contact the office of Dr. Cobb and arrange for an in-office visit. Also, the website for the American Dental Association (ADA) is full of great information about oral care for infants, small children, and everyone else in the household.
As mentioned earlier, baby teeth begin to appear at about 4 months of age. And although it may be difficult at first to get your baby to keep its mouth open for a teeth cleaning, it’s something that should be done twice a day (especially once before bedtime). Be patient and gentle, but be persistent. The process will become easier as your child gets accustomed to the experience. Oral care is important for maintaining good oral health in the life of your infant, and sets a good routine that will benefit them for the rest of their life.
Given that new baby teeth are quite small, brushing them at first often requires the use of a soft, damp washcloth or even a damp piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. The aim is to wipe away milk or formula residue from their teeth and gums and to prevent the natural sugars inherent to both from creating a welcome environment for bacteria and plaque that may lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Make sure you use a clean washcloth (or piece of gauze) every time you clean your baby’s teeth. Reusing the same bit of cloth creates a risk of spreading existing bacteria around their teeth and gums.
There are toothbrushes made for infants. They are small and feature very soft bristles. If your child has grown comfortable with the washcloth teeth cleaning process described above, you may want to try to switch to an infant toothbrush. The advantage of the toothbrush over the washcloth is that tiny soft bristles are better able to disrupt the colonization of bacteria around their gums and tiny teeth.
The ADA recommends that toothpaste be avoided until the child is at least 2 years old. The reason for this is that many types of toothpaste contain fluoride, which can be harmful when swallowed. At 2 years of age, a pea-sized drop of toothpaste is all that is recommended at each brushing, and fluoride toothpaste is only recommended for kids that can spit after brushing.
When should I first contact a pediatric dentist about my child’s teeth? The ADA recommends that babies start seeing a dentist by their first birthday. This is good advice.
If you need more information about how to care for your baby’s teeth or if you wish to make an appointment for an evaluation, feel free to contact the office of Dr. Cobb. There can be many responses to questions about early oral care for children, so it’s always best to address parent questions on a case-by-case basis. As a pediatric dentist, Dr. Cobb is always ready to provide counseling regarding these issues and more!