Dental Care for Your Baby

Starting your child off with good dental care can help protect their teeth for decades to come. A baby’s 20 primary teeth are already present in the jaws at birth. Those baby teeth that begin coming through the gums around 6 months help set the stage for future smiles by keeping space in the jaw for adult teeth.

Baby teeth may be small, but they're important. They act as placeholders for adult teeth. Without a healthy set of baby teeth, your child will have trouble chewing and speaking clearly. That's why caring for baby teeth and keeping them decay-free is so important.

Caring for Baby's Gums

You can start caring for baby's gums right away. But at first, the care won't involve a toothbrush and toothpaste. Instead, take these steps:

  • Get a soft, moistened washcloth or piece of gauze.
  • Gently wipe down your baby's gums at least twice a day.
  • Especially wipe your baby's gums after feedings and before bedtime.

This will wash off bacteria and prevent them from clinging to gums. Bacteria can leave behind a sticky plaque that damages infant teeth as they come in.

Brushing Baby's Teeth

When the first baby teeth start to pop up, you can graduate to the use of a toothbrush. Choose one with a soft brush, small head and large handle.

At first, just wet the toothbrush. As soon as teeth erupt, you can start using a bit of training-toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. You can increase this to a peas sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when your child is 2 years old. Brush gently all around your child's baby teeth, front and back.

You should brush your baby's teeth until he or she is old enough to hold the brush. Continue to supervise the process until your child can rinse and spit without assistance. That usually happens at around age 6.

Tips For Parents

  • Begin to wean your infant from a bottle to a sipper cup by the age of 1 year. Children can successfully drink from a cup by 10 months of age.
  • Clean your infant’s mouth with a gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding and most importantly before bedtime.
  • Begin to use a toothbrush with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste as soon as your child’s first tooth erupts. You do not need to use toothpaste if your infant doesn’t like it. Toothpaste is not a necessity until 24-36 months of age.
  • To prevent early childhood caries, NEVER put your infant to bed with a bottle of anything other than 100% water. Even at naptime.
  • To dip a pacifier or nipple into sugar or honey is not recommended, since this can contribute to early childhood caries.
  • Change your child’s toothbrush every 3-4 months or right after a cold or flu.
  • Brush at least twice a day: once after breakfast and once right before your child goes to bed.
  • Establish a dental home for your child by the first birthday through his or her first dental visit.
  • Do not encourage the use of a pacifier. If your child already uses a pacifier, begin to discourage use by 9 months of age.
Dr. Cortez treating a baby with the baby's mother watching and smiling

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