How to look after your baby's first teeth
Dental health expert Dr Scott Chao talks about how to care for your baby's first teeth. Keep reading for more information...
Your baby's first tooth is a wonderful milestone and many parents cherish those gorgeous one-tooth smiles as much as they do those first toothless, gummy grins.
However, as more teeth start emerging, you many wonder how to look after your baby's first teeth, and if dental care and hygiene for babies is as important as it is for older kids and adults.
To help answer some of the questions you may have about caring for your baby's precious first pearly whites, we spoke to Dr Scott Chao of Dental Icon Pte Ltd.
Here's what he had to say about how to look after your baby's first teeth.
"When should I schedule my baby's first dental appointment and how often should her dental appointments be?"
The general rule is "First tooth, First birthday, First dental visit."
Follow-ups should be every 6 months for regular check-ups and maintenance. More frequent follow-ups may be needed, such as every 3-4 months, if the child has more severe oral health problems.
"When do I need to start cleaning my baby's first tooth/teeth?"
You could start cleaning your baby's mouth just weeks after birth even though he or she will most often be toothless (although some newborns are born with a tooth!).
Just use some gauze and distilled or tap water to clean out the slimy milky films off the palate, tongue, cheeks and gums. You could look after your baby's first teeth when they emerge by following this same method.
"What's the best way to maintain my baby's dental hygiene at home?"
Try to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to how you look after your baby's first teeth at home.
For small babies, gauze and distilled or tap water is adequate.
For toddlers, you could use a finger brush and whatever toothpaste the child chooses or likes (Dr Chao elaborates that for his own family, he uses ToothMousse).
Clean or brush your child's tooth/teeth at least 2 times a day for best results. Ideally, you should be cleaning his or her teeth after each feeding or meal.
It's especially important to clean your child's tooth/teeth after any meals or feeding at night because the sugars from those meals that remain in your baby's mouth are especially detrimental to their teeth.
"My baby loves to eat sweet things — is this going to be very harmful for her teeth?"
YES. Sweets will definitely be harmful to the teeth. But we have to be realistic here — without sweets, life would be miserable for kids, and boring too.
So if your child likes sweets, the PARENTS (note the emphasis here, you cannot hold a child totally accountable to take care of his/her own oral health) need to be vigilant and put more emphasis on prevention of tooth decay.
This means brushing or cleaning your child's teeth after every sweet treat.
"Does my baby need fluoride?"
A lot of parents are against fluoride, and you can dig up a lot of Internet information about how bad fluoride is and how it can even damage brain cells.
Yes, a child can get fluoride poisoning, but he or she would probably need to consume 2-3 bottles of concentrated fluoride gel for this to happen.
In my opinion, you have to get your information from a reliable source. For me, the most reliable sources are the guidelines of the ADA (American Dental Association), Journal of American Dental Association, and American Journal of Dentistry.
All these guidelines suggest fluoride does more good than harm, so do consider using a kids' toothpaste that contains fluoride for your little one.
"How much toothpaste should I use for my child?"
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a ‘smear’ of fluoridated toothpaste for children less than 2 years of age is adequate.
A ‘pea-size’ amount of toothpaste is appropriate for kids aged 2-5 years.
"What kind of toothbrush is best for my baby?"
Even though there is a huge selection of kids' toothbrushes in the market, your child's toothbrush doesn't have to be fancy. Whichever toothbrush he/she is willing to use is adequate.
"Should I floss my child's teeth?"
Ideally, a child's teeth should be flossed as soon as they come through. But we also need to be realistic here — if parents attempt to floss too much, it might discourage the child from maintaining good oral hygiene.
So I always tell the parents, it would be SUPER awesome if your child is willing to floss, but I wouldn't worry too much about it.
I would rather the child brush all their teeth — especially the back hard-to-reach ones — for an entire 2 minutes, than to sweat over flossing.
"What are the best foods for my baby's teeth?"
An essential vitamin that can help prevent dental cavities in kids is Vitamin D.
This vitamin can be found in foods such as fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon), foods fortified with vitamin D (some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and cereals), cheese and egg yolks.
Another nutrient that contributes to healthy teeth is calcium. This can be found in foods such as dairy products, dark leafy greens, broccoli and almonds.
"Why should I bother cleaning my baby's milk teeth? They're going to fall out anyway."
The truth is that some of these teeth stay in the mouth till your child is 11 or 12 years old.
If these teeth are lost too early due to decay or poor dental hygiene, it can adversely affect your child's eating ability, speech and positioning of adult teeth.
"My child really hates her teeth being cleaned. What can I do?"
A complaint of many parents is that their children dislike their teeth being cleaned.
However, Dr Chao explains that if you start cleaning your child's mouth from the time he or she is very young, then it's highly unlikely that he/she will resist any attempts to having their teeth cleaned when they are older.
He also recommends getting your child used to following a regular teeth-cleaning routine every day. With this, brushing their teeth will soon become a perfectly normal part of your child's daily routine and you are unlikely to meet with resistance.
We hope you found this information useful. Do leave a comment and share with us how you look after your baby's first teeth.