Taking care of your baby’s incoming teeth
After weeks of your baby drooling and fussing, you finally notice that first little tooth bud poking out through the gums. Over the next couple of years, your baby’s smile will slowly but surely be full of two rows of baby teeth. Baby teeth are small but important. They are essentially placeholders for their adult teeth. If their teeth don’t have a healthy set of baby teeth, your child will have trouble chewing and speaking clearly. Caring for baby teeth and keeping them free of decay is so important, so you should start caring for your baby’s gums right away. But at first, caring for them involves:
- A moistened washcloth or piece of gauze
- Gently wipe your baby’s gums at least two times a day
- You should make sure to wipe your baby’s gums after feedings and before bedtime
This will help wash off bacteria, preventing them from clinging to gums. Bacteria leaves behind a sticky plaque that can damage infant teeth as they grow in. When the first baby teeth start to appear, you can progress to a toothbrush. The brush should be super soft and small with a long handle, which will make brushing a little easier for you. Brush your baby’s teeth until they are old enough to hold the brush and make sure to supervise until your child can rinse and spit without help, usually around age 6. It is also a good idea to regularly examine their teeth and keep an eye for any signs of baby tooth decay. If you or your pediatrician notices any issues, you should take your child to a pediatric dentist for an exam. Even if there are no problems, by age 1, you should take your child to go in for their first dentist visit. The dentist can give you advice about:
- baby tooth care
- thumb sucking
It can take up to two years before all your baby’s teeth make their way through your baby’s gums. This process is called “teething” and it is notorious for being a trying time for you and your baby. Teething is uncomfortable, which is why babies cry and fuss during the days or weeks before each of their baby teeth pop up. Babies generally display these symptoms during this time:
- swollen gums
- slightly higher than normal temperature
There are many ways you can relieve your baby’s teething pain:
- Teething rings: It is common for babies to chew on a clean, cool teething ring or a cold washcloth. Be sure to avoid giving your child anything that may be small enough to choke on. It is also recommended to avoid buying teething rings with liquid inside, since there is a risk that is could break open.
- Massage gums: Rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger. Though it may hurt a little, it will be very helpful. Massaging the gums can actually help the teeth break a little faster.
- Pain reliever. Topical pain relievers are rubbed on the gums, though you should check labels because the FDA warns that these types of products can cause dangerous, possibly life-threatening side effects. You can also give your baby Tylenol to help relieve pain but consult your pediatrician first. You should never give your child aspirin because it has been connected to a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome. If your baby is extremely irritable or can’t be consoled, call your pediatrician.