Caring for your baby’s teeth begins before birth. Teeth start to form in the womb, and cavities or gum disease from the mother can affect the health of the fetus. So it should come as no surprise that you need to provide for your infant’s oral health right from the time of birth.
Most babies get their first teeth around 5-7 months of age, and the types of oral care they need change before, during, and after teething. Here’s a quick overview of the main things you should do to promote good oral health before your baby’s first birthday.
From birth to teething
Your baby has teeth from the moment of birth. They’re hidden underneath the gums, but infection can still get in there and cause harm. That’s why oral health is crucial for newborns. Before teething starts, you should do the following:
- Clean your baby’s gums with a moist cloth after each feeding, using your finger to gently rub the cloth against the gums.
- Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle, or otherwise letting him or her feed “on demand.” This is a surefire way to encourage bacterial growth. You should always feed your baby actively and then clean the gums afterward.
- Don’t share utensils with your baby or test the temperature of a bottle in your mouth. Cavities are an infectious disease, and you can actually give them to your child by doing this.
Teething is not much fun for babies, and your child will probably let you know by crying a whole lot. Your baby may also have swollen gums or produce excessive saliva during the teething process.
At this stage, continue with the same oral hygiene routine, cleaning the gums after each feeding. In addition, you can give your child a moist washcloth or a teething ring to help sooth the discomfort. Cold helps reduce teething sensations, so chill the ring or washcloth before use, and always clean it afterward to prevent bacterial growth.
After the first tooth
Once the first white bud starts to emerge from the gums, it’s time to start brushing. Continue to use a wet cloth to clean the gums, but also add a soft-bristled child’s toothbrush to your routine. You don’t need to use toothpaste at first, just brush with water.
As teeth continue to come out, keep an eye on their appearance. If you see white or brown areas on your child’s teeth, this can indicate tooth decay and should be looked at by a dentist right away. Even if everything looks fine, schedule your child’s first dental appointment sometime before his or her first birthday. And if you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s oral health at any point, don’t hesitate to call your dentist and ask.
- Berg, J.H. & Slayton, R.L. (2015). Early Childhood Oral Health.
- Pine, C. et al. (2015). “A new primary dental care service compared with standard care for child and family.” Trials.
- Ramos-Gomez, F. et al. (2002). “Implementing an infant oral care program.” Journal of the California Dental Association.