So you have now parents – what a wonderful experience! Just as you care for all aspects of your child’s health and hygiene, a baby’s oral health needs your attention right from the start. At the time of birth, a baby’s mouth generally contains no teeth (occasionally a tooth or two may be present). The upper and lower jaws contain gum lined arches, which the infant uses for sucking and later chewing too.
When should you take your baby for a dental check up?
An infant’s first dental visit should be planned within six months after the first baby tooth comes into the mouth. At the latest, it is important to visit a pediatric (children’s) dentist no later than a baby’s first birthday.
Why does your baby need to visit a pediatric dentist so early in life?
Dental decay or dental caries can begin right from the time of eruption of the first baby tooth. Baby teeth are as important as adult teeth, and so is their dental care. Baby teeth serve important functions such as chewing, speaking, smiling, maintaining space for future adult teeth, give an attractive look to a child’s face and help to maintain self esteem and confidence.
So how can a new mom ensure good oral health of her baby?
Ultimate Guide for Baby’s First Brushing
Things to do before baby teeth come into the mouth
- When to start oral care?
Initially a baby’s mouth is without teeth. But does that mean a new mom does not need to clean it? False! A baby’s mouth needs to be cleaned right from the start!
- Why do baby gums need cleaning?
Initially, milk and later food debris clings to soft oral mucosa of the gums and tongue. These sticky particles and sugar in milk may induce infections such as mouth thrush (white coating of gums and tongue due to fungal infection) and other infections since a baby’s immunity is low. Thus, infants may be more susceptible to these infections. Moreover, germs which cause tooth decay also begin to cling to gums and tongue, creating a poor environment for future baby teeth to erupt into. This predisposes a baby for future dental decay.
- How to clean a baby’s gums and tongue?
Cleaning a baby’s mouth initially means cleaning the gums of the upper and lower jaw, and cleaning the tongue. Follow these steps:
Step 1 – Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Step 2 – Make sure your baby is well fed and in a good mood. You may talk or sing to your baby as you clean his/her mouth, to keep him/her amused.
Step 3 – Cradle your baby’s head in your arm, with baby’s head in your lap. Keep your baby’s head supported.
Step 4 – Take a clean, damp or moist gauze or cloth and gently wipe the gums and tongue.
Step 5 – Alternatively, you may use baby gum wipes available commercially.
Things to do after baby teeth begin erupting
- When to start cleaning a baby’s teeth?
Tooth cleaning should begin as soon as the first baby tooth emerges, which is usually around 6 months of age.
- How should you clean a baby’s teeth and tongue?
Step 1 – Start brushing with a baby toothbrush or silicone rubber brush that fits on a finger.
Step 2 – Use may brush without toothpaste initially and then gradually introduce a toothpaste containing fluoride.
Step 3 – Only a rice- sized smear of a toothpaste containing fluoride should be used in children before the age of 3 years.
Step 4 – Use a children’s tongue cleaner to clean the tongue of food and milk debris.
Step 5 – A pea sixed amount of fluoride containing toothpaste may be used between 3 to 6 years.
Step 6 – Encourage spitting out of excess toothpaste.
Step 7 – Always help your child brush at least till he/she is more than 8 or 9 years. From then on, they are usually able to brush on their own, under your supervision.
- How to manage teething?
Teething is the normal, physiologic process of emergence of teeth in the mouth. This may cause problems such as drooling (excess salivation), soreness in the gums or irritability in your baby. Do not panic. Try providing your baby with cool teethers or clean, hard food such as a carrot or cucumber to chew on to relieve soreness. Be careful that the baby does not swallow the food item inadvertently. Massaging the gums gently with your clean fingers will also help. It is a temporary phase and not all babies will have trouble teething.
Practices a new mum should AVOID:
- Avoid sharing
New mothers frequently share their cups, spoons or utensils with their babies. Cleaning a pacifier by placing it in the mother’s mouth is also a bad idea. These are unhealthy practices since a mother’s oral germs are transferred to her baby’s mouth by sharing common utensils.
- Avoid kissing on the mouth
Babies are often kissed on the mouth by their mothers. This, again, is to be avoided to prevent transferring a mother’s oral germs to her baby via mouth fluid or saliva.
- Avoid bottle feeding beyond 1 year of age
Prolonged bottle feeding makes a baby’s teeth more prone to cavities. Take your baby off the bottle and introduce sippy cups or glasses beyond 1 year of age.
- Avoid fruit juices and colas
Fruit juices and colas have high sugar content and acidity, which is detrimental to the dental health of your child. Additionally, they have poor nutritional value.
Timely oral hygiene and care can save parents from a dental decay (caries), painful abscesses and infections, poor nutrition, and loss of self confidence as the child grows up. A beautiful and healthy smile is an awesome gift for your child, with lifelong benefits. Prevention of dental problems through diligent oral care is the simplest way to achieve this.
Protect your child’s smile – right from the start!