Dental Care for Your Baby
Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines, and your son or daughter will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Caring for Gums
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gum tissue. This practice clears your little one’s mouth of food fragments and begins building good oral care habits.
Baby’s First Tooth
When that first tooth enters, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold simultaneously and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.
At this stage, toothpaste isn’t necessary; dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn’t react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don’t give up. Instead, switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months and try the toothbrush again. During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy.
Brushing with Toothpaste
When a few more teeth appear, you can use toothpaste with your child’s brush. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice). From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing, which should not be swallowed at any age.
Don’t give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, ensure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.
First Visit to the Dentist
It’s recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems. We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral health and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one’s teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
Setting a Good Example
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit the importance of your good habits at an early age. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.)
Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!
Pediatric Dental Emergencies
If your child faces a dental emergency, give us a call immediately. You can call our emergency number if you need urgent treatment after hours. We are always here to assist when your child’s dental health is at risk. Below are tips on dealing with urgent dental situations. You may want to display this list on your refrigerator or store it near your emergency phone numbers for easy reference.
Bitten Lip or Tongue
If your child has a bitten lip or tongue severe enough to cause bleeding, clean the bite gently with water and use a cold compress (a cold, wet towel or washcloth pressed firmly against the area) to reduce or avoid swelling. Give us a call to help determine how serious the bite is.
Object Caught In Teeth
If your child has something caught between his or her teeth, use dental floss to remove it gently. Never use a metal, plastic, or sharp tool to remove a stuck object. If you cannot remove the item with dental floss, call us.
Broken, Chipped, or Fractured Tooth
If your child has chipped or broken a piece off of a tooth, rinse his or her mouth with warm water, then use a cold compress to reduce swelling. Try to locate and save the tooth fragment that broke off. Call us immediately.
If your child’s tooth has been knocked out, find it and rinse it with water (no soap), taking care to only touch the crown of the tooth (the part you can see when it’s in place). Place the tooth in a clean container with milk. Call us immediately and/or head to the hospital. If you act quickly, it’s possible to save the tooth.
If your child has a very loose tooth, it should be removed to avoid being swallowed or inhaled.
If your child complains of a toothache, rinse his or her mouth with warm water and inspect the teeth to be sure there is nothing caught between them. If the pain continues, use a cold compress to ease the pain. Do not apply heat or any kind of aspirin or topical pain reliever directly to the affected area, as this can cause damage to the gums. Children’s pain relievers may be taken orally. Schedule an appointment immediately.
If you know or suspect your child has sustained a broken jaw, use a cold compress to reduce swelling. Call our emergency number and/or head to the hospital immediately. In many cases, a broken jaw results from a blow to the head. Severe blows to the head can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
You can help your child avoid dental emergencies. Child-proof your house to avoid falls. Don’t let your child chew on ice, popcorn kernels, or other hard foods. Always use car seats for young children and require seatbelts for older children. And if your child plays contact sports, have him or her wear a mouthguard. Ask us about creating a custom-fitted mouthguard for your child. Finally, prevent toothaches with regular brushing, flossing, and visits to our office.
Alongside favorite blankets, teddy bears, and nap time, thumb-sucking can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood. According to a recent report, between 75% and 95% of infants suck their thumbs, so chances are there’s a thumb sucker (or a former thumb sucker) in your family. Is this cause for worry?
In most cases, the answer is no. However, it’s important to pay attention to your child’s habits in case his or her behavior has the potential to affect overall oral health.
What is normal thumb-sucking behavior?
Most children begin sucking their thumbs or fingers very young; many even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant, and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.
According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them. However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower the chances are of continuing the habit). If your child is still sucking when his or her permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.
What signs should I watch for?
First, take note of how your child sucks his or her thumb. If the sucking is passive, with the thumb gently resting inside the mouth, it is less likely to cause damage. If, on the other hand, the thumb sucking is aggressive, placing pressure on the mouth or teeth, the habit may cause problems with tooth alignment and proper mouth growth. Extended sucking affects both the teeth and the shape of the face and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future.
If at any time you suspect your child’s thumb sucking may be affecting his or her oral health, please give us a call and schedule a visit. We can help you assess the situation.
How can I help my child quit thumb-sucking?
Should you need to help your child end the habit, follow these guidelines:
- Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb-sucking, give praise when they don’t.
- Put a band-aid on your child’s thumb or a sock over the hand at night. Let your little ones know that this is not a punishment but rather a way to help them remember to avoid sucking.
- Start a progress chart and let your child put a sticker up every day so that he or she doesn’t suck. If your child makes it through a week without sucking, he or she gets to choose a prize. When the whole month is full, reward your child with something great (a toy or a new video game); by then, the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in his or her treatment will increase the willingness to break the habit.
- If you notice your child sucking when he or she is anxious, work on alleviating the anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb sucking.
- Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides or while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions.
- Explain clearly what might happen to the teeth if he or she keeps thumb-sucking.
Whatever your method, remember that your child needs your support and understanding while breaking the habit of thumb-sucking.