Your Child’s Early Dental Health Is Important
The first year of your child’s life is filled with important milestones. By the time they blow out those one-year birthday candles, most children can crawl, sit up unassisted, and even pull themselves up to stand!
In all of the hustle and bustle of newborn life, it’s easy to forget the importance of early dental care. Yet, taking care of your baby’s teeth now can help set the stage for a lifetime of excellent oral hygiene. Learning how to clean baby teeth, encourage healthy habits, and navigate the teething stage are all important steps.
Right now, they’re all gums and baby coos, but soon enough, that first tooth will emerge and the journey will begin. Today, we’re sharing how to nurture your child’s dental health from the very beginning.
Oral Healthcare for Babies Explained
Research shows that more than 40% of children age 2 to 11 have dental caries, or cavities, in their primary teeth. These are permanent areas of decay that develop when excess bacteria are allowed to build up on the tooth’s enamel.
Not only can untreated cavities lead to pain and infections, but they can also affect the way your child speaks, eats, and learns. Thankfully, they are preventable.
By starting a dental care routine early, you can help keep your baby’s teeth and gums clean, and keep decay at bay. Before they cut their first tooth, you can focus your efforts on their gums.
Every morning and evening, wipe their gums down using a soft, clean cloth. Try to schedule this bonding time right after your baby’s first feeding and directly before bedtime. This way, you can remove any excess bacteria and sugar that are lingering around.
When the First Teeth Come In
Each baby is different, but most will develop their first tooth around the six-month mark.
When this happens, you’ll need to add a second step to your routine. In addition to wiping your baby’s gums down twice a day, you’ll also need to take great care of that new tooth!
First, find a baby toothbrush that has soft, small bristles. Then, start brushing the tooth twice a day using plain water.
It’s also smart to go ahead and book your baby’s first visit to the dentist when this time comes. Find a practice that specializes in dentistry for children and is trained in tending to their unique needs.
When your child is born, they already have all 20 of their primary teeth intact. Though you can’t see them, they’re lying right below the gumline. Between the ages of 6 months to 1 year, they begin to slowly come through.
By the time they turn 3, most children have their entire set of primary teeth in place. These newly emerging teeth can be very exciting. Unfortunately, they can also be very painful.
A few of the most common teething-related symptoms you might notice in your baby include the following:
- Appetite loss
- Excess drool
Though it can be disheartening to watch your baby process these changes, all of the above symptoms are normal. However, if your baby develops a fever, rash, or diarrhea while teething, let your pediatrician know immediately.
Soothing the Pain
While there are myriad medications and even some special jewelry designed to help relieve teething pain, the safest and most effective techniques are natural and simple.
If you notice that your baby is in pain, gently rub their gums with your clean finger. You can also run a small, cool (not cold) spoon around the affected area, as well as a soft, moist gauze pad.
If you have a specially designed teether toy, those can also work, though it’s important to clean them thoroughly after every use. If you do go this route, look for teethers that are made of solid rubber. Plastic teethers and even the popular liquid-filled teething rings can easily break and pose a health risk.
As soon as you see your baby’s first tooth erupt, you can start scheduling their first visit to the local dentist’s office. By the time they turn 1, they should have visited the dentist at least once. If you aren’t connected to a dental team in your community, search online for “Pediatric dentist near me” and read reviews from current clients.
During this visit, your dentist can check all of your child’s primary teeth for signs of decay. They’ll also examine your child’s bite. In addition, they will check your child’s mouth for any existing current or anticipated problems affecting their gums, jaw, and oral tissue.
Why Primary Teeth Are so Important
They’re going to fall out anyway, right? So why should you take the time to clean your child’s primary teeth?
The answer is that these early teeth are vital to your child’s overall development. Here are a few reasons to prioritize them early.
Your child’s primary teeth act as space holders for their adult teeth. As they erupt and eventually fall out, they help guide those adult teeth into their proper position.
If your child prematurely loses a tooth due to tooth decay, this can affect the spacing and alignment of the adjacent adult teeth.
Why? As your child develops more primary teeth, they’ll naturally drift into that space to fill the gap. Then, when it’s time for adult teeth to erupt, they can become blocked by the misalignment.
Overall Health and Wellness
Though they aren’t permanent, cavities in primary teeth can still cause pain. If your child has a cavity, it could limit their ability to chew food. Over time, this can lead to a nutritional deficiency.
In addition, an untreated cavity can also form an infection or dental abscess. This infection can spread throughout their body and pose a significant health risk.
Healthy Adult Teeth
Not only do primary teeth hold the space for their adult replacements, but they also affect how healthy those new teeth become. This is because permanent teeth develop right near the roots of baby teeth.
Due to their small size, it doesn’t take much for cavities to weaken the thin enamel of primary teeth. Minimizing their importance and choosing to forego dental treatment can put your child’s adult teeth at a disadvantage from the start.
In addition to the factors above, primary teeth play a major role in speech and facial development. And if they have a cavity in a tooth, the pain could also affect your child’s focus and self-esteem.
Discover How to Clean Baby Teeth and More
As you and your baby adjust to life together, you’ll experience lots of firsts.
Learning how to clean baby teeth, soothe the discomfort of teething, and schedule their first dentist visit are all skills that you’ll acquire, and that’s only in the first year!
If you’re in southern Maryland, we’d love to be your pediatric dentistry resource. Our team is trained in every aspect of providing dental care for children. Request an appointment today and let’s start this adventure together.