FAQs for New Moms
When do the teeth break through the gums (erupt)?
Normal eruption of the first tooth is generally around 6-7 months of age +/- 6 months. This means that it is normal for a baby to be born with teeth (6 months old minus 6 months = birth) or to have no teeth until they are 1 yr old (6 months old plus 6 months = 1 yr old). You can see that “normal” encompasses a pretty wide range. If your baby’s first tooth is later than the average, you can expect them to also lose teeth later than most of their peers. This is still considered normal.
Teething causes intermittent discomfort, irritability and excessive salivation as new teeth are erupting in your baby’s mouth. You can manage teething with over-the-counter analgesics, such as Tylenol Infants’ Drops, or allowing the baby to chew on a soft, chilled teething ring. Use of teething gels containing topical anesthetics such as benzocaine is NOT recommended due to potential toxicity of these products in infants. Teething happens intermittently as teeth are erupting, so you may notice that it is off-and-on until the child is around 2 years of age or until all the teeth have erupted.
When should I start cleaning my baby’s teeth?
As soon as a tooth appears! The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste on a soft, infant-sized toothbrush twice a day.
Wait a minute! I thought I wasn’t supposed to use fluoride until the child is old enough to not swallow it?
Yes, that used to be the case. However, the recommendations have been changed. This change is due to scientific research showing that the benefits of fluoride, preventing devastating dental disease, far outweigh the risks. Fluoride is deemed safe and effective by both the American Dental Association and the American Association of Pediatric Dentists. It should always be stored out of the reach of young children and only used under adult supervision for children under age 5.
There are many products available to clean your baby’s teeth. You may have to try out a few different types to see which you like the best. As the teeth first erupt, a soft wet washcloth is adequate to remove the soft buildup that accumulates on the teeth and gums. There is a type of “toothbrush” for infants that includes a sleeve that fits over the parent’s finger with small rubbery bristles to clean the teeth. An infant toothbrush is simply much smaller in size with very soft bristles. Do not ever use a medium or hard toothbrush on your baby!
What about baby bottles or sippy cups?
Baby bottles are a great way to nourish your child. Once your child has moved on to a sippy cup and is no longer receiving all of his or her nutrition via bottle, the sippy cup should contain only water. Anything else that your child sips throughout the day and/or night can greatly increase his risk for tooth decay. A common cause of cavities in very young children is having a bottle or sippy cup in bed with milk or juice.
These habits constitute a behavior known as non-nutritive sucking because it stems from the sucking reflex babies have and does not provide any nutrition. Pacifiers and thumb-sucking are a common method very young children use to self-soothe. Please stay tuned for next week’s blog on pacifiers and thumb-sucking to learn more about these habits.
When should my baby visit a dentist?
The American Association of Pediatric Dentists recommends that every child should see a dentist by his or her first birthday or when the first tooth comes into the mouth. This will enable the dentist to give you, the parent, valuable information and education regarding how to care for your child’s teeth. It will also familiarize your child with the dental office. You will be shown how to clean your child’s teeth properly and given tips on how to best accomplish this as your child grows and becomes more mobile.
Do you have other questions about your baby’s teeth?
Call our office at 940-382-1750 to set up a consultation with Dr. Chowning. He can answer any questions you have about your baby and give you advice on helping keep baby teeth healthy.