Watching infants and toddlers experience many of life’s first moments is truly a magical time for moms and dads.
One of these firsts is seeing your baby’s primary teeth start to come in between 4-6 months of age (in most cases). As the parent or caregiver of an infant or toddler, here are a few things you should know about their oral health…
Why are primary teeth so important?
Even though children are going to start losing their primary teeth around 5 or 6 years of age, they still play a vitally important role in your child’s overall health and development.
They help provide “structure” for the growth and development of the face.
They help to maintain adequate spacing between teeth, setting the stage appropriately for permanent teeth.
It’s important to care for primary teeth just as you would “adult teeth.” This involves a consistent oral hygiene routine and seeing a pediatric dentist for routine checkups and exams (more on this below).
Got any teething tips for my baby?
Teething can be a miserable experience for parents and babies, but there are a few things you can do to mitigate the misery:
Chew on something edible that isn’t dangerous, such as a carrot or cucumber. These foods can gently help your baby work their gums and prepare for tooth eruption.
In addition, we commonly recommend Children’s Tylenol® or Children’s Motrin®.
How should I clean my baby’s primary teeth?
When a child is young, using toothpaste to clean their new teeth should be avoided at first (until your child is able to adequately spit out toothpaste and avoid swallowing it). We recommend using a washcloth and water, or a toothbrush with very soft bristles.
Remember their gum tissue is fragile, so gentle cleaning is a must!
A warning about milk and bedtime.
While it’s commonplace to put babies to sleep with milk, it isn’t very good for their teeth. The sugar in milk can feed the bacteria in the mouth, leading to tooth decay. If you must put your child to sleep with a bottle, use water with sugar-free flavoring.
If your child drinks too much milk and doesn’t have their teeth and gums properly cleaned, it can lead to baby bottle tooth decay.
Where and when should I take my child for their first dental visit?
We recommend that your child see a pediatric dentist around their first birthday, if not sooner. Our pediatric dentists have completed 2-3 extra years of schooling above and beyond a general dentist; we provide care for infants and toddlers day in and day out.
You should take your child to a pediatric dentist for the same reason that you take them to a pediatrician when they are young; it’s the best, most focused care they can get!