Oral Health

Teething

Signs of teething include drooling, crankiness, swelling of gums, biting objects, refusing to eat, and waking up at night or during naps.

Help your child by giving child-safe teething items such as a teething ring, pacifier, or a wet washcloth chilled in the refrigerator. Or, wash your hands and then use your finger to rub baby’s gums. If your child is eating solid foods, you can try cold foods like applesauce or frozen fruits or hard foods like a cracker.

If your child is still having a difficult time, talk to your doctor about using medication or numbing gels.

Typically, the two top and bottom teeth appear when your child is between 6-12 months old. Most children will have 20 teeth by the age of three.

Tooth Care

Bacteria in the mouth change the sugar in food and drinks into acid. Over time, this acid can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Tooth decay can lead to other problems, like ear and sinus infections, and cause trouble when your child is trying to form words or concentrate. To keep your child’s teeth healthy, don’t let your child fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup filled with milk, formula or juice. Crunchy vegetables help remove plaque from building up on your child’s teeth. Sharing spoons and cups between children or between child and caregiver can introduce decay-causing bacteria into your child’s mouth.

Brushing

For newborns, wipe gums with a clean, damp cloth each day. Try doing this at bath time to establish a routine.

If your child is 4 months – 2 years old, brush teeth with a small toothbrush once a day whenever the first tooth arrives (typically between 4-7 months). Ask your pediatrician what kind (if any) and how much toothpaste to use.

When you child is 2-5 years old, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste once your child understands to spit out rather than swallow toothpaste. You will need to supervise to make sure your child is brushing properly.

Tips:

  • Let your child pick out her own toothbrush at the store.
  • Use a small toothbrush with round-end bristles made for kids.
  • Brush in a circular motion (back and forth can wear down gums).
  • Brush everywhere (front, back, top, and between teeth).
  • After your child develops teeth next to each other, begin flossing in between teeth.
  • Try singing or playing a certain song to help them know how long to brush.

Dental Checkups

Talk to your pediatrician about when to visit the dentist. Many doctors recommend scheduling your baby’s first appointment at age 1. Consider your child’s schedule when making the appointment- try to pick a time when she is fully awake and ready to try new things.

Your attitude towards the dentist shapes your child’s attitude. Tell them ahead of time what to expect- the dentist will look in their mouth, they will sit in a chair that goes up and down, there might be bright lights. At the dentist, smile, talk them through what is happening, and try to plan something fun to do together afterwards. Ask your dentist any questions you have about how to care for teeth, how often to come, and whether extra fluoride or tooth sealants are recommended for your child. Regular dental care can prevent decay, pain, unattractive teeth, and larger dental emergencies as your child grows.