Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby's first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your son or daughter will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Caring for Gums
Even before your baby's first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby's gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.
Baby's First Tooth
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it's time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.
At this stage, toothpaste isn't necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn't react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don't give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months and try the toothbrush again. During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.
Brushing with Toothpaste
When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste on your child's toothbrush. However, until your child is able to reliably spit out the toothpaste, it is recommended that you only apply a tiny "smear" amount to the bristles. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing. Model the brushing and spitting behavior for your child so that they can see how you take care of your teeth. This will prepare your child for a lifetime of good brushing habits. Please be aware that swallowing toothpaste should not be encouraged at any age and is not a safe alternative to daily fluoride tablets or drops recommended for children living in areas lacking optimal water fluoridation.
Don't give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth are the leading cause of early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.
First Visit to the Dentist
It's recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth's eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems. We'll look for any signs of early problems with your baby's oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one's teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups. Early visits also allow your child to become comfortable in a new setting with unfamiliar faces. We help your child feel safe and welcome in a fun environment that will make them look forward to future visits to the dentist.
Setting a Good Example
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You'll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.) Most children don't have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they're about age six or seven. Dr. Gifford strongly recommends that both the child and the parent get a turn at each toothbrushing session until at least age seven, and older if they are not demonstrating proficiency yet. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. Dr. Gifford highly recommends the Sonicare Kids toothbrush as the best available on the market today. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!