As a new parent, you have to learn about what to expect with your baby including their oral health. This starts as soon as your baby is born. Below are answers to common questions to help you take care of your baby’s oral health.
What should you watch out for from 0-6 months before teeth erupt?
From 0-6 months of age it is important to establish proper breastfeeding position and nasal breathing as well as deal with any habits such as thumb sucking. The position that the baby is in while nursing should allow them to freely breathe from his/her nose. The sucking pressure as well as nasal breathing help the jaw grow in a proper width wise, forward and back position. If the breastfeeding position does not allow the child to breathe normally through their nose, this can lead to a mouth breathing habit that can cause poor airway and jaw development. Observe your baby when sleeping and ensure their lips are closed and nasal breathing is happening. If there is a thumb sucking habit, now is the easiest time to stop it by removing the thumb and soothing them to sleep. As baby gets older the habit becomes harder to break. When should you expect their first tooth?
The following chart outlines the expected time of eruption for primary (baby) teeth. There can be some variation in the time as well as the sequence of eruption. The primary dentition consists of 20 teeth and is completed by 20-33 months of age.
How should you take care of your baby’s teeth?
0 – 6 months: There is no need to use a brush during this period of time unless your child gets their first tooth early. During this time, you can clean his/her mouth by using a wet wash cloth to wipe their gums after breastfeeding.
6-18 months: Daily care for your child’s teeth should begin when the first tooth erupts. Initially, this can be done by wiping his/her tooth with a wet wash cloth wrapped around your finger. As more teeth erupt a silicone finger brush can be used. Often a child will fall asleep while nursing or with a bottle in their mouth. Avoid this from happening as the sugars in the milk can cause cavities. Use a wet washcloth to gently sweep his/her teeth. This can help to prevent cavities and bad breath.
18+ months: You can move to a regular toothbrush around this age. If your child is curious and wants to brush, let them have a turn and then you should finish by doing a thorough brushing. Toothpaste is not required and my preference is to forego the training toothpaste that children can swallow as it makes it harder for them to learn to spit out the toothpaste with fluoride. Flossing should begin when two teeth next to each other start touching.
When should you take your baby for his/her first dental visit?
The first visit should happen when the first tooth erupts or by age 1. During this visit we check for cavities, mouth or nose breathing, discuss nutrition for healthy teeth and what to do regarding oral habits like soothers and thumbsucking. After this visit we recommend seeing them every 6 months.
If your child has a cavity why fix it rather than pulling the tooth out?
Cavities are caused by bacteria that are infectious and can spread to other teeth in the mouth. If your child has a cavity it is important to treat it as soon as possible. If the baby tooth is not ready to fall out, pulling the tooth can lead to complicated consequences such as the teeth around it moving into the space and preventing the adult tooth from coming into the correct position. This can cause misalignment of teeth or prevent an adult tooth from erupting all together. Baby teeth are the best space holders for the adult teeth growing underneath them, therefore we want to keep them in the mouth until they are ready to fall out naturally (refer to chart above for average times baby teeth fall out).
Good oral health for your baby begins at birth with establishing nasal breathing, followed by an oral hygiene routine once his/her teeth start growing in. Parents play an important role by modelling good dental habits and attitudes for their child to follow. Be sure to ask your dentist any questions or concerns you may have regarding your child’s dental health.
Abinaash Kaur, BSc, DDS, Khatera Naibi, RDH, Sammantha Ritacco, RDH