This post is part of the Preparing for Birth Series. Guest Sheila shares how to care for your baby’s teeth and gums. For more information about Sheila, be sure to check out the bottom of this post and for more posts on advice for the new mom, check out our week of advice for the new mom posts here on the blog.
While most infants don’t get their first teeth until they’re between four and seven months old, it’s important to care
for your little ones teeth even before that exciting milestone hits. Teaching your infant how to take care for their teeth from the get-go will not only help establish crucial oral hygiene habits, but it will help ensure a healthy smile. Ideally parents should take their children to see a pediatric dentist, as they are specifically trained to work with children and have specially designed child size instruments to examine your infant’s mouth. The one year age marker is around when most people bring their children to see a pediatric dentist for the first time.
Prior to the emergencies of your infant’s first teeth, wipe his or her gums – gently but firmly – with a clean damp cloth or piece of gauze. You’ll want to move the cloth along the upper and lower gums and repeat this at least twice a day. Ideally, however, you would do this after every feeding.
Once the first tooth pops, take an infant toothbrush and gently but firmly clean your child’s teeth with water and fluoride-free toothpaste that has been formulated specifically for infants. It’s important to avoid toothpastes made with fluoride as ingesting too much fluoride can be harmful to an infant’s health and, as any mother can tell you, some swallowing of toothpaste will be inevitable. Make sure to brush all of your child’s teeth, but also brush the gums in the area where teeth have yet to pop in as this is crucial for maintaining your child’s healthy mouth.
Like with adults, brushing teeth after every meal is ideal, but if that is not an option, at least twice a day is recommended, and you’ll want to regularly check your child’s mouth for discoloration, spots, or anything seemingly abnormal. You may find it helpful to get a music-enhanced toothbrush as it will likely engage your child in the oral hygiene process and make the process more seamless.
Lastly, it’s not only about what you physically do to clean your baby’s mouth but also about what you put into it. Give your child healthy foods (being particularly careful to avoid sugar whenever possible), and never let your little one fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth since juice or milk will sit on their teeth as they sleep and, over time, this will inevitably contribute to tooth decay.
Cleaning teeth aside, the teething process can be a painful one for infants. To ease the pain, massage your little ones gums with a clean finger and let your child bite down on a chilled teething ring.