Baby Dental Care
A myth that most parents spend their lives believing is - Baby teeth aren't as important as adult teeth! This myth has shaped poor oral hygiene habits for babies in several households resulting in increased chances of dental anomalies and infections in adulthood. The reality is that just because your baby's teeth aren't permanent doesn't mean they're not important. In fact, the oral hygiene habits and development of your baby's teeth decide how their permanent dentition develops and how they can take care of it. Before we jump on to the dental care needs of a child, let's take a look at the development cycle of primary dentition.
Development of Primary Dentition
Babies start developing their teeth when they're still inside their mother's womb. 20 tooth germs hide inside the gums while a baby is yet to be born. For most babies, teeth begin erupting in the oral cavity when they're between 6-10 months of age. That being said, this tooth eruption can begin as early as 3 months or as late as 12 months for some babies. All 20 teeth erupt in the oral cavity of a child by the time they turn three years old. These 20 primary teeth are replaced by 32 permanent teeth when your child gets older.
Have you noticed that your child gets cranky or develops a fever whenever a tooth starts erupting in his/her oral cavity? This means that your child has entered the teething stage. During the teething stage of tooth eruption, the tooth bud reaches the surface of the gums and then erupts out of it. You'll notice that when a tooth is trying to erupt in the oral cavity, your child often clenches his/her gums together to deal with the pain. Some other signs of teething that you might notice in your child are:
- Your child gets really cranky, cries all the time, and wants to always be held and loved.
- The feeding habits of your baby change.
- Your child will start sucking or biting objects like a pillow or their teether or their toys
- The bowel movements of your child will change which means a lot more dirty nappies to deal with!
The above signs may either be associated with teething or may be a part of your child's normal developmental growth. These are nothing to worry about and mostly resolve on their own without any outside help. However, if your baby is running a fever or is suffering from diarrhea that can't be taken care of by home remedies, then it's best to visit your child's pediatrician at the earliest.
Tips to Make the Teething Stage Better for Your Child
If you're worried about your baby during his/her teething stage and want to make things better for them, then you can try the following hacks:
- Clean your hands with soap and water and rub your baby's gums with your index finger using gentle pressure.
- During the teething stage, babies have a higher urge to bite on things. To help soothe their gums and satisfy their urge to bite things, you can give your child something cold and soft to chew on. Like a cold teething ring or dummy or even a soft-bristled toothbrush. However, take care that the item is not extremely cold or frozen as that can be uncomfortable for your child and can even cause thermal injury to their gums.
- As soon as your baby enters the teething stage, their feeding habits change. During this time, you can try feeding your baby semi-solid soft foods which will be easy for your baby to chew and digest.
- Babies also love to suck on things while their tooth erupts. To further help soothe your child, you can give them a rusk to suck on.
Some parents use teething gels and other dental aids to relieve their child's gums during teething. However, it is strongly recommended that you steer clear of such aids as they can have several harmful side effects that you wouldn't want your child to deal with. Furthermore, even after implementing all the above tips, if you still feel that your child is facing problems, you can consult a trusted pedodontist of your choice.
How to Take Care of a Baby's Teeth and Gums?
Baby's teeth and gums are just as important as an adult's teeth and require just as much attention. Parents often don't know how to clean their baby's teeth when they start erupting and sometimes end up ignoring their baby's oral hygiene. This can lead to several oral health problems during adulthood and can even make your child more prone to several oral infections. You must begin practicing oral hygiene on your child as soon as they turn three months old. Here are some tips and tricks to improve and implement the oral hygiene routine in your child's life. Take a look!
- You must begin cleaning your baby's gums as soon as they turn three months old to prevent accumulation of any harmful bacteria in their mouth. To do this, you must first clean your hands with soap and water. Then wrap a small piece of gauze around your index finger and dip it in water or a small amount of mouthwash. Gently clean your baby's gums with your gauze-wrapped finger. You can do this twice daily for improved oral hygiene of your child. This practice also helps inculcate the habit of brushing in your child once their teeth begin erupting in the oral cavity.
- You must start brushing your child's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears in the oral cavity. To clean your baby's teeth, you must use a soft-bristled toothbrush and water only till your child turns 18 months old. If your baby doesn't like cleaning their teeth with the help of a toothbrush, then you can continue using the above-stated gauze method for a while.
- After your baby has crossed the 18 month milestone, you can begin using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste that's recommended for children to clean their teeth.
- To brush your baby's teeth, you must position your baby's head so that you can see and access their mouth completely. Use your free hand to cup your baby's face and use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your baby's teeth. Use soft circular motion to clean all the areas throughly.
Quick tip: If your baby gets cranky while you brush their teeth, you can try playing some nursery rhymes or even singing some lullabies yourself to calm them down. Even if you get only a few seconds to brush your child's teeth, it's good enough! Just ensure that you inculcate the habit of brushing in your child right from the time they start developing teeth
Oral Hygiene Care Do's and Don'ts for Children
Dental care for babies is an extremely important and sensitive topic, the knowledge of which can improve oral hygiene of your child by miles. The oral hygiene does and don'ts vary across different age groups. Let's take a look at each one of them!
- Dental Care for 0-6 Months of Age
- Practicing oral hygiene for your child right from the time they're born is extremely important to ensure that their oral cavity stays healthy and free from infections and other dental problems.
- After you feed your child, always make sure that you clean his/her gums with a wet gauze or cotton wrapped around your finger. Cradle your baby in you lap and use gentle pressure to clean their gums with your cotton or gauze-wrapped index finger.
- If you feed your baby with the help of a nursing bottle, then ensure that they don't go to bed with it. You can either prop the feeding bottle in your baby's mouth or keep it next to them at night and allow them to feed at their own will. This will prevent the development of nursing bottle caries when they start developing teeth.
- Infants usually begin the teething process when they're 4 months or older. During this time, you may notice that their salivation increases and their gums may appear inflamed and swollen. To soothe your baby's gums, you can give your baby a cold teething ring or washcloth to chew on.
- Dental Care for 6-12 Months of Age
- During the age of 6-12 months, your child starts developing his/her first set of teeth. During this time, it is extremely important to pay attention to their oral hygiene habits.
- Continue using the wet-gauze method stated above to clean your child's gums after feeding. Once a tooth erupts in the oral cavity, you can also wet a soft-bristled toothbrush for cleaning it.
- To relieve the signs and symptoms of teething, you can give your baby a sugar-free rusk to suck on and a cold teething ring to chew on all day. The cold temperature of the teething ring will help calm down the inflammation of the gums.
- Start feeding your baby semi-solid foods and ensure that you limit the consumption of sugars in the form of juices and other beverages to prevent accumulation of bacteria in the oral cavity that can lead to the development of caries.
- Check your child's mouth regularly by lifting his/her lip and notice if you see any brown or white spots. These spots can be indicative of caries or tooth decay. Schedule an appointment with your child's pedodontist immediately in such a case.
- Schedule your baby's first dental appointment with the pedodontist of your choice. Be careful to do this within the first six months of tooth eruption.
- Make sure that your child drinks fluoridated water to prevent any tooth anomalies. In case your drinking water lacks fluoride, you can consult a pediatrician for supplements.
- Remember, dental caries is an infectious disease and to protect your child from developing caries, you must refrain from testing feeding bottle temperatures by putting it in your own mouth or shared utensils.
Dental Care for 12-18 Months of Age
- By the age of 12-18 months, you must get your child familiarized with oral examinations and start taking them to a pedodontist of your choice every 6 months for examination.
- Till the age of 18 months, brush your child's teeth with a wet soft-bristled toothbrush twice every day. Do not use any kind of toothpaste to clean his/her teeth.
- Regularly check your child's mouth for signs of dental decay or caries. In case you notice any brown spots or any other signs of tooth decay in your child's oral cavity, schedule an appointment with a pedodontist immediately.
Dental Care for 12-18 Months of Age
- By the age of five years, your child develops all the primary teeth in his/her mouth and also have a full-blown oral hygiene routine.
- After your child turns two years old, you can begin using a pedodontist recommended toothpaste to clean your baby's teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a rice grain-sized toothpaste amount to diligently clean your baby's teeth. Ensure that you use circular motion to reach all surfaces of the tooth.
- You can also begin to educate your child about the habit of brushing and its importance in your child's life. Teach your child how to brush his/her teeth regularly. You can even introduce a reward system to establish the brushing habit in your child's life.
Maintaining your child's oral hygiene is important for your child's overall health. It helps with speech and feeing developments of your child and also affects the growth of your baby's jaws. Practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent several oral infections and help your child lead a healthy life.