February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! To celebrate, we want to talk about the tiniest members of our families with the tiniest teeth: babies! Whether you are a first-time parent or just had your fifth, the cutting of the first tooth is an exciting (and painful) experience. For those involved with baby’s first tooth, there are a lot of questions. Come visit us to get all your questions answered, but in the meantime, here are the answers to some questions we hear frequently!
- When should I take my baby to the dentist?
Taking your baby to their first dentist appointment should occur sometime after their first tooth comes in and no later than their first birthday. At this appointment, your dentist will examine their teeth for cavities and can also show you how to properly clean your child’s teeth. Your dentist might also guide you through how to handle habits like thumb-sucking.
- How should I care for my baby’s first teeth?
Start cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear. Begin by wiping the gums with a clean, damp washcloth. You can also use a finger brush or another toothbrush designed for babies’ sensitive gums. Use toothpaste without sugar if at all possible. We don’t recommend brushing your baby’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste because babies tend to swallow it and ingest too much fluoride. Make sure to brush their teeth twice a day, just like you do!
- How can I prevent tooth decay for my baby?
While baby teeth are temporary, it is still important to take care of them and prevent cavities. These first teeth also set the foundation to make sure adult teeth come in properly. One common cause of infant tooth decay is the frequent exposure of baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. This exposure occurs most often when a baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier. Good habits that will help prevent this decay are regular brushing, avoiding juice, finishing bottles prior to bedtime, and encouraging general healthy eating habits.
- Can breastfed babies get cavities?
Yes! Natural breast milk, just like formula, contains sugar. So it is important to care for your baby’s teeth from day one in either case. Make sure to wash your baby’s gums with a wet washcloth every day and brush their teeth twice a day as soon as the first tooth erupts.
- How can thumb-sucking affect my child’s teeth?
Babies and children often suck their thumbs as a way to soothe themselves. However, this habit can result in improper development of the oral cavity and misalignment of the teeth. Thumb-sucking can even cause changes in the roof of the mouth. Pacifiers can affect the teeth in a similar manner. Typically, kids stop sucking their thumbs by the time their permanent teeth are ready to erupt, but it is important to try and stop the habit before that time comes.