It’s finally happened…after weeks of watching your little one slobber and drool, and be all fussy, that first little tooth has popped out! Yay! But now your baby’s gummy smile is going to be rapidly replaced by little pearly whites, and knowing how to care for them is extremely important… Those little teeth, even though they are tiny, are the ‘placeholders’ for your child’s adult teeth. If they are not looked after properly, they can cause a whole range of problems. These can include having trouble chewing, and having problems speaking clearly.
My baby is still a toothless wonder:
You can in fact start caring for your baby’s teeth even before that first tooth breaks free. You can do this by carefully wiping down your baby’s gums with a clean washcloth or piece of gauze that has been moistened with water only. No toothpaste, no toothbrush 🙂 Doing this regularly (at least twice a day, preferably after feedings) will help wash off any bacteria, and will remove plaque build up that can damage those baby teeth when they do come in. This action also prepares your baby for the next step, which is brushing those little teeth when they do appear.
My baby has a tooth (teeth) now:
When your baby’s first tooth (or teeth, they often come in pairs 🙂 ) has broken through, it’s time to head on out to the pharmacy and choose a tooth brush for your little one! Be sure to choose one with
- soft bristles
- small head
- large handle
What I did, is fold up a towel and place it over to basin, then let my daughter sit on that, with me supporting her from behind (This is just one suggestion….we have a large built in vanity, so that’s what makes sense for us). To start with (first week or so), you can brush your baby’s tooth (or teeth) using just water. This will give your baby time to adjust to the sensation of the bristles in their mouth. Then it’s time to add the toothpaste! Make sure you choose a fluoride toothpaste for children – the taste is much milder – and only use a small amount, a smear about the size of a grain of rice. Brush all around the tooth, and gently brush the gums too.
Be sure to keep a look out for any signs of cavities. You may see slight discoloration, or even minor pitting. This can happen if you put your baby to bed with a milk or juice bottle. Some doctors suggest taking your baby for their first dental check-up at the age one 1, but most paediatricians agree that by sticking to water at night, and by looking after your baby’s teeth, you can actually push that first dental visit to closer to the age of three, when it will be less traumatic or scary for your child (or you).
My baby’s not a baby anymore:
We should continue brushing our children’s teeth until they are old enough, and have enough dexterity to do so by themselves. This is usually between the ages of 2!/2 and 3 1/2 years old. However, we need to supervise our children until they are much older than that. They need to be able to put the correct amount of toothpaste on their brush, brush for the correct amount of time and in the correct manner, and they need to know how to rinse and spit properly. Dentists suggest supervising tooth brushing until at least the age of six.
Oops! My kid has chipped or broken a tooth! What now?
Any injury to your child’s mouth should be reported to your dentist immediately. The dentist will want to examine the affected area and decide what treatment is necessary. If your child is in pain from a broken, cracked or chipped tooth, you could skip the call. You need to go straight to the dentist. Give your child some over-the-counter pain relief, such as child-strength paracetamol, if you deem it necessary. Also, if any part of the tooth has broken off, keep it safe (in a small, seal-able plastic bag, for example) and take this with you to the dentist.
If a tooth is completely knocked out of the mouth by an injury (playing cricket or baseball for example), take the tooth to your dentist as soon as possible. Handle the tooth as little as possible — do not wipe or clean the tooth at all. Put the tooth in milk (or water if you can’t get hold of milk) until you get to a dentist.The dentist may be able to put the tooth back into your child’s mouth, a procedure called re-implantation.
As with adults, the most important thing to remember is that your little one’s teeth have to go with them through life. Teeth serve a multitude of purposes, from the obvious like chewing, to helping with speech and supporting other structures in the mouth and face. By teaching our children good dental hygiene from a young age, we are setting them up to have a healthy smile for the rest of their lives.