Caring for Baby Teeth
Watching and waiting for your infant’s first teeth to emerge can be an exciting and distressing time. In some cases, baby teeth can take a parent by surprise, especially if their child has had an easy time with the teething process. Some lucky babies feel no distress at all during teething, and so they might have tooth emerge with no fanfare whatsoever. Some children, though, do exhibit numerous signs and symptoms during the teeth process, from increased crying and irritability to persistent drooling and biting down on anything they can get their little hands on. In these cases, the emergence of a baby tooth is a welcome relief, because it means that the worst of it is over.
Once these little milk teeth emerge, though, they must also be cared for, raising a whole new set of concerns. How to take care of these tiny little teeth? Rest assured, it’s quite simple.
Gum Care for Infants
Even before those first baby teeth emerge, it is a good practice to get into the habit of gently cleaning your infant’s gums with a damp washcloth or soft piece of medical gauze. You need not apply much pressure or spend too much time, but a simple, soft swipe up and down the upper and lower gums can be just enough to gently wipe away any residue that has built up. It is particularly good to do this before putting your baby to bed for the night, as it removes any bacteria that may be present before it rests on their delicate gums all night long.
Not only is this good for your child’s gums and overall oral health, it can also set up a habit of oral care that makes the beginnings of tooth brushing much easier.
Tooth Brushing for Infants and Toddlers
There is no magic number at which you should start brushing the teeth that begin to emerge in your child’s mouth; some pediatricians recommend brushing the very first tooth that emerges and others say it’s fine to wait until there is a small line of three or four teeth all in a row. Talk to your pediatrician about their own recommendation.
The most important things to know about brushing the teeth of infants and toddlers is to use the softest bristled small-headed brush you can find and to use a vanishingly small amount of toothpaste. Particularly with new toothbrushes, it can also help to soak the head of the toothbrush in warm water for a few minutes before brushing; this can help the bristles to soften up even more, providing a gentler experience for your little one.
When applying toothpaste, think about approximating a single grain of rice. This will seem like a very small amount – and it is! – but you your child won’t be able to spit out the toothpaste in these early years, so it is important not to give them an amount that could be harmful when swallowed. Before your child is old enough to spit out their toothpaste when brushing, also take care not to use fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed. Children generally get enough fluoride to protect the enamel in their teeth from tap water; any treatments that may be necessary to supplement this exposure can be undertaken at the dentist’s office.