Baby Teeth and Teething Tips
- When babies are teething, they may become fussy, sleepless and irritable, lose their appetite or drool more than usual. Diarrhea, rashes and a fever are not normal for a teething baby. If your baby has a fever or diarrhea while teething or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, call your doctor.
- Babies may get sore or tender gums when their teeth cut their gums. Gently rubbing your child’s gums with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze pad can soothe them. A clean teething ring may also help.
- When baby teeth break through the gums, brush using a children’s toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than the size of a grain of rice.
- Begin regular dental checkups no later than your child’s first birthday for “smile insurance.”
Baby Tooth Decay Is Real
As soon as teeth appear in your baby’s mouth, it’s possible for your baby to develop cavities. It is important to keep your baby’s gums and teeth clean to prevent tooth decay, even in baby teeth.
Keep Baby’s Gums and Teeth Clean
Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad. This removes plaque and food, and helps your baby become used to having his or her gums and teeth cleaned – and it will make tooth brushing easier later on.
Once your child’s teeth start to come into the mouth, brush using a children’s toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than the size of a grain of rice.
Baby Teeth Are Important
Kids need strong, healthy baby teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for permanent teeth.
If a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent tooth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it’s time for the other permanent teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded. Starting your babies off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for life.
Baby Teeth Decay
Your child’s baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they show up– usually around age 6 months. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers usually occurs in the upper front teeth, but it can also occur in other teeth. In some cases, infants and toddlers have experienced decay so severe that the teeth cannot be saved and need to be removed. The good news – decay is mostly preventable.
Causes of Decay
Tooth decay begins when cavity-causing bacteria are passed to an infant. For example, if you put your baby’s spoon or pacifier in your mouth and then put it in your baby’s mouth, cavity-causing bacteria are passed to the baby.
Another cause of tooth decay in babies is frequent or long exposure to liquids that contain sugar, such as fruit juices, soda or other sweetened liquids.
To Bed Without a Bottle
It’s also important to put your baby to bed WITHOUT a bottle. Sugary liquids from a bottle pool around the teeth while the child sleeps. Bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food. They then produce acids that attack the teeth. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack for 20 minutes or longer. After these attacks, the teeth can decay.
Pacifiers dipped in sugar, honey or sweetened liquids can also lead to tooth decay since the sugar or honey can provide food for the bacteria’s acid attacks.
Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers
Sucking is natural for babies. Whether it’s their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects, sucking helps babies feel secure and happy. Young children may also suck to soothe themselves. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may help them fall asleep.
When Should It Stop?
Usually kids stop sucking their thumbs between 2 and 4 years old, or by the time the adult front teeth are ready to break through their gums.
After your kid’s permanent adult teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of their mouth and teeth alignment. Vigorous thumb sucking may also cause problems with baby teeth. If you notice changes in your kid’s baby teeth, please talk to your dentist.
Using pacifiers at a later age can be as much of a problem as sucking fingers and thumbs, but it’s usually an easier habit to break.
Tips to Stop Thumb Sucking
- Praise your kids for not sucking their thumbs. Don’t scold them for sucking them.
- Children often suck their thumbs when they feel insecure or need comfort. Focus on why your child is anxious and comfort your child.
- For older kids, involve them in choosing how to stop. Your dentist can offer encouragement to your kids and explain what might happen to their teeth if they don’t stop sucking their thumbs.
- If these tips don’t work, remind your child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night.
- Your dentist or doctor may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or suggest the use of a mouth appliance.
Prevent Kids’ Tooth Decay
You can prevent tooth decay for your kids by lowering the risk of your baby getting the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Make sure you take good care of your baby’s teeth – this reduces the number of bacteria in your baby’s mouth.
Decay Prevention Tips
- Don’t share saliva with your baby by sharing spoons, licking their pacifiers or pre-chewing their food.
- After each feeding, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This will remove plaque. When your child’s teeth begin to break through the gums, brush them gently with a soft, child-sized toothbrush and water.
- Once your child’s teeth start to come into the mouth, brush using a children’s toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than the size of a grain of rice.
- Brush your children’s teeth until they are able to do so themselves, usually around age 8. Then, supervise their brushing to make sure they brush thoroughly 2min2x (2 minutes, twice a day) and spit out the toothpaste afterward.
- Place only formula, milk, breast milk, or water in baby bottles. Infants should not be put to bed with a bottle.
- If your child uses a pacifier, give them one that is clean — don’t put it in your mouth first or dip it in sugar, honey, or other sweetened liquids.
- Encourage your children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and don’t let your child sip all day from a training (sippy) cup with sweetened beverages.
- Encourage healthy eating habits that include a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Serve nutritious snacks to your kids and limit sweets to mealtimes.
- Make sure that your kids get the fluoride they need. Discuss your kids’ specific fluoride needs with your dentist or pediatrician.
A balanced diet helps keep your children’s teeth and gums healthy. A diet high in natural or added sugars may place your child at extra risk for tooth decay.
What is a healthy diet for my child?
A healthy, balanced diet has all the nutrients your child needs to grow and includes the following major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
How can my children’s diet protect their teeth?
First, be sure they’re eating a balanced diet, limiting between-meal snacks and limiting how frequently they have food or beverages with sugar. Sugar is in more than just the sugar bowl and candy. Lots of foods contain one or more types of sugar, and all types of sugars can cause tooth decay. Sugar can be found in many processed foods, such as cookies, crackers, cereals and soda. Sugar is also often found in condiments like ketchup and salad dressings.
Should my kid give up all foods with sugar?
No way! You simply need to select and serve them wisely. A food with sugar is safer for teeth if it is eaten with a meal, not as a snack. Chewing during a meal helps produce saliva which helps wash away sugary and starchy foods. Sticky foods, like potato chips, raisins and other dried fruit and candy are not easily washed away from your kid’s teeth by saliva, water or milk, so they have more cavity-causing potential. Talk to your dentist about serving foods that protect your kid’s dental health.
Does a balanced diet mean my kid gets enough fluoride?
No. A balanced diet does not guarantee the proper amount of fluoride for the development and maintenance of your kid’s teeth. If you do not live in a community with fluoride in the water or have the right amount of naturally occurring fluoride in your well water, your child may need additional fluoride. Talk to your dentist about your kid’s specific fluoride needs.