It is a significant milestone when your baby goes from gummy grins to that cute toothy smile. Newly erupting baby teeth serve an essential role in the development of your baby’s teeth and mouth.
- How to care for your baby’s gums and new teeth
Start by wiping your baby’s gums
Even before your baby has their first tooth, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of wiping his/her gums with gauze or a soft wet washcloth during bath time or after feeding. You don’t need to use any toothpaste yet.
Bacteria in the mouth usually can’t harm the gums before the teeth erupt, however, your baby can get “thrush” even without teeth, which is a yeast infection in the mouth. You won’t know when the teeth start to break through the gums, so you’ll want to start early. Getting your baby used to their mouth cleaned as part of a daily routine should make it easier to transition into toothbrushing when teeth appear.
How do you wipe a baby’s gums?
I recommend taking a few minutes to clean your baby’s mouth once or twice a day. Using a damp washcloth or gauze pad, gently rub the gums, cheeks, and tongue to wipe away any food or debris. This will help prevent bacteria from growing.
Toothpaste isn’t necessary, but you can use a tiny, grain-of-rice-sized toothpaste. I recommend fluoride-free until they have teeth. The earlier you start the better so it becomes a habit for both you and your baby. I struggled for years to get my daughter to use toothpaste without spitting it out while trying to brush. Maybe if I tried toothpaste before she got teeth it would have not been an issue?
- Look for lip, tongue-tie, or any oral myofunctional disorder.
What causes an orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD)?
While there can be many factors, research shows that airway obstruction is one of the leading issues that may lead to the development of an orofacial myofunctional disorder. Airway obstruction can be caused by several factors:
- Thumb Sucking/Pacifier Sucking/Finger Sucking
- Lip or tongue-tie
- Mouth breathing
- Enlarged Tonsils/Adenoids
- Deviated Septum
- Nasal Polyps
- Other causal factors
At rest, a healthy oral posture is one where the lips are closed with the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth. Not touching the teeth. During the foundational years of life, this tongue posture helps to form the shape of the inside of the oral cavity, including the hard palate (roof of the mouth) and position of the teeth.
When a person’s airway is restricted by any one of these factors, they will make adjustments in order to be able to breathe. For instance, if you can’t breathe through your nose, you will open your mouth. Even though we can breathe through our mouth we should not.
While that is not necessarily problematic once in a while if you have a cold, any airway obstruction that is chronic will affect the muscles, bones, and habits of the person.
For instance, thumb-sucking can result in a high narrow palate, a tongue thrust, and an anterior open bite of the teeth. Constant mouth breathing can result in a low tongue posture, again, also causing a high narrow palate. These examples are very general but may begin to give you a good idea of how our habits and muscles may affect the development of other muscles and bones in our body.
Tongue Thrust is one of the most common types of orofacial myology dysfunctions, causing improper patterns and habits that can put tongue pressure against the front teeth. This pressure from the tongue can result in the movement of the skeletal and tooth posture. These problems are MYOFUNCTIONAL in nature.
Thumb/finger sucking and open mouth posture with the lips apart at rest are other common problems that can cause incorrect positioning of the tongue and lips and typically contribute to the misalignment of teeth.
Most people do not realize that these behaviors can continue into adulthood, causing not only appearance problems, and affect self-esteem, but can also cause dental and swallowing issues.
Early recognition is key to establishing a proper facial tone and muscle balance so patients will be able to maintain maximum function and oral health over the course of their lifetime. You may need an oral myofunctional therapist. See the blog for more information.
- Why are baby teeth important?
Baby teeth also called primary teeth, get your baby’s mouth ready for their permanent teeth. Baby teeth serve a purpose and have other important functions besides providing that precious smile. Baby teeth are important for your child’s growth and development.
- They are necessary for your toddler to learn to speak. With the lips and tongue, baby teeth help form words by controlling airflow out of the mouth. When primary teeth are healthy, well-spaced, and aligned, your child is better able to form words and speak clearly.
- They help with proper chewing and eating. When we eat, our teeth tear, cut, and grind food in preparation for swallowing. During the chewing process, saliva is stimulated and food is broken down making it easier to digest. Digestion starts in the mouth.
- Our baby teeth serve as placeholders until our permanent adult teeth are ready to come in the baby teeth to help guide them onto the correct position. This is where the most important role of baby teeth comes into play. They’re needed to preserve space for adult teeth while they are forming under our gums and inside our jaws.
- I look at baby teeth as our starter set. They give us the time to create good habits so we can learn to keep our permanent teeth and be the healthiest we can be in the future. Our mouth is a window into our bodies. Baby teeth and mouth health are more important than once thought.
- If the teeth still have the blood supply, they are a source of stem cells, which can be potential salvation against diseases.
- Signs of Teething
Every baby experiences teething differently. Some babies have no symptoms, while others seem to go through a lot of pain. Some common teething symptoms your baby might experience include:
- Sucking or biting
- Swelling or redness of gums
- Ear rubbing
- Facial rash
- Mild temperature
If your baby shows any of these symptoms and they don’t go away or seem to worsen, please contact your pediatrician. There might be something else going on.
If your baby is having a difficult time teething, there are some things you can try to help ease their discomfort and pain. Give them something to chew on, like a firm rubber teething ring or a cold washcloth that you’ve chilled in the refrigerator (not the freezer, you never want to take a washcloth out of the freezer and put it on your infant’s gums. It may cause frostbite or stick to the tissues) Chewing helps relieve the pressure of the new teeth pushing through. You can gently rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a wet gauze pad or washcloth. If your child is eating solids, offer chilled foods, like popsicles, applesauce, pureed peaches, or yogurt. Make sure to give lots of extra snuggles and kisses to help reassure and distract them.
- Brushing Baby Teeth when they appear
As soon as teeth become visible in the mouth, brush them twice a day with a small soft bristle toothbrush. As discussed above you can use a small rice-sized smear of toothpaste. Encourage your baby to spit out the toothpaste. Fluoride-containing fluoride-containing or fluoride-free toothpaste is a personal choice. This is a controversial subject; both arguments have merit. Neither is right or wrong, you do what you believe is best for your family.
- Baby Teeth and Cavity Prevention
Just like permanent teeth, baby teeth can get cavities if not taken care of properly. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a term used to describe tooth decay that develops after baby teeth have frequent and prolonged contact with too much sugar and acid. It can occur when babies are put to bed with a bottle, when a bottle is used as a pacifier, or if a baby uses a bottle or sippy cup for extended periods of time. If the snack all day on goldfish or other sticky foods.
Bacteria is always present in the mouth, feeding on the sugar, multiplying, and producing acid as a waste product. This acid attacks the teeth and weakens the tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. The main way to prevent baby bottle tooth decay is to only put water, milk, or formula in baby bottles and take the bottle away when your child is sleeping before you lay them in bed.
Other ways to prevent cavities are:
- Avoid giving your baby sticky foods and snacks like candy, crackers, bread, soda, or juice in between meals. Instead, give your baby healthy snacks like cheese, yogurt, or fruit.
- Limit the amount of juice you give your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 6 ounces per day for young children and only gives juice at mealtimes. Babies under six months should not drink juice at all.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean, and don’t dip it in anything especially sugar or honey.
- If you see white spots developing on your baby’s teeth, then make an appointment with the dentist right away. A white spot is often the first sign of a dental cavity and a stage that can be reversed.
- Foods that can cause tooth decay in babies?
The foods below can contribute to cavities:
- dried fruit, like raisins
- peanut butter and jelly
Serve these foods with water to balance the pH of the mouth and rinses away anything likely to get stuck and sit on the teeth too long.
Note The AAP )American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends no juice at all for babies younger than 1 year.
- Baby Tooth Eruption Timeline
Teething, also known as primary tooth eruption, is when your baby’s first set of teeth breaks through their gums. Teething usually begins around six months of age. However, it’s entirely normal for teething to start at any time between three to 12 months of age. My daughter did not get her first tooth until she was 13 months old. She has always followed her own path even as early as the teething stage of life.
Baby teeth start forming before babies are born. Tooth buds begin growing during the second trimester. Once babies are born, the roots grow and the teeth are pushed up until they break through the gums.
By the time they are three years old, most babies will have all 20 baby teeth,
- First Dentist Visit
The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first visit to the dentist before their first birthday or six months after they get their first tooth. Ask if the office sees a child under two years of age. Some offices say to wait until all of the baby teeth have erupted, sometimes that is too late to catch something that could have been treated easily.
Knowledge, prevention, and education are key to a lifetime of healthy smiles.
This first visit is an excellent opportunity to introduce your child to dentistry in a fun and positive way.
We check your baby’s teeth for decay and make sure they are erupting properly. We also discuss proper oral care, diet, and habits that can influence your child’s dental health, breathing, growth, development, and well-being.
This first visit is a great opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have. It is also a great opportunity to introduce your child to dentistry in a fun and positive way. Establishing a “dental home” is also important in the case of a dental emergency as your child begins walking and exploring the world.
We all want good health and a lifetime of happy healthy smiles for our children. My hope is these important facts and tips keep those baby teeth healthy and prevent harmful dental and health problems for years to come. Our mouth is a window into our body snoring, grinding, mouth breathing bleeding gums and cavities are not normal they are a sign something is wrong. We as parents have an opportunity to help prevent issues as our children grow rather than wait until they have pain.
Dental disease is a silent disease. Cavities are the #1 preventable childhood diseases. Educating ourselves is the first step to changing the way we view our mouths and bodies. The top four things we need to survive and thrive all start with our mouth and nose. So to me, that is where we should focus our attention when we bring a new baby into the world and as they grow.
It’s important to care for your baby’s teeth from the start. Wiping their gums, brushing, flossing, diet, pH, and visiting the dentist regularly.
What to do:
- Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. A baby’s front four teeth usually push through the gums at about 6 months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until 12 or 14 months.
6 Months- 3 Years
- For children younger than 3 years, start brushing their teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride/fluoride-free toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing to ensure that they use the appropriate amount of toothpaste.
- For children 3 to 6 years of age, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) Supervise children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste. Try disclosing to color the teeth and see where you are missing.
6 & up
- Until you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, or you see no more pink or blue when disclosing, continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. When your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin cleaning between their teeth daily. With floss or a water flosser.
Watching what you feed your child, how frequently snacking occurs and the pH level of the mouth will create good habits that will last a lifetime.
A healthy mouth, a healthy body, and healthy happy life!
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