Baby Teeth: Where a Lifetime of Good Oral Health Starts
You can’t see them. But they’re there. Baby teeth... they started forming way back in the womb, but before you know it, they’ll be erupting through your baby’s gums.
The first baby teeth, known as primary teeth, usually appear as early as 3-4 months of age, but really start to erupt through the gums between the ages of 6 months to one year of age. The timing all depends, and which ones come out first all depends, too, but all 20 primary teeth (baby teeth) will usually erupt by the age of three. And those baby teeth are important, even if you can’t see them and even if they eventually fall out and are replaced with permanent adult teeth. Baby teeth are in fact, extremely important.
- Help children chew food easily and properly
- Help children speak more quickly and clearly
- Hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums
- Set the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles
Baby teeth are also just as prone to cavities as adult teeth. In fact, more than 50 percent of children will be affected by tooth decay before the age five.* So you want to keep those cavities away to avoid an early loss of a tooth. When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when it’s their turn to erupt. So, proper oral hygiene is important as soon as your baby is born. Establishing good oral habits early will go a long way, even beyond impressing the tooth fairy!
When baby teeth emerge through the gum, it’s called teething. It can be a bit painful, and it can make your child cranky. But, it’s a very natural process that every developing child goes through. Your baby’s gums may be sore and tender, and they may drool a bit. But there are ways to alleviate some of that pain and make your baby, and you, feel a whole lot better.
To alleviate teething pain:
- Gently rub your child's gums with a clean finger, a wet gauze pad, or a small, cool spoon
- Give your child something to chew on, like a cool washcloth or a rubber teething ring
- Offer your child cold foods such as applesauce or yogurt if he or she is old enough to eat solid foods
If these methods don’t work, you might want to give your teething baby a small dose of children's pain reliever, but check with your doctor before giving your baby any medication. If nothing seems to be working and your teething baby continues to be cranky and demonstrate signs of pain, call your pediatric dentist or pediatrician.
How to Clean Baby Teeth
Good oral hygiene begins at birth. So it’s wise to get in the habit of cleaning your baby’s gums even before any primary teeth come in. Gently clean your baby’s gums after every feeding using a clean, damp washcloth or a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head made just for babies.
As soon as the first baby tooth arrives, you can start brushing it with a toothbrush and toothpaste. To brush baby teeth, use a small amount of non-fluoride toothpaste (sometimes called training toothpaste). Brush the front and back of your baby’s teeth, and lift your baby’s lips to make sure you get the gum line. You should brush your baby’s teeth twice a day.
Try to have your baby realize that you brush your teeth too. It can greatly influence their desire to brush like you do.
When should a baby first see a Dentist?
At Dental Associates, we want you to have a lifetime of smiles. And we want to be with you throughout that lifetime. That’s why we would like you to make Dental Associates your dental home. By definition, a dental home is the ongoing relationship between the dentist and the patient; a relationship that begins with the child’s very first visit around the age of one and includes all aspects of oral health care delivered in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, coordinated, and family-centered way. It also means you’ll be referred to a dental specialist if need be. You get that with Dental Associates, and more. Our general and specialty dentists all work in the same building, so you not only get referred, but also have extremely easy access, most of the time just down the hall!
Good habits start early. So, establish your dental home with Dental Associates and schedule your child’s first dental visit shortly after the first tooth appears, and no later than your child’s first birthday. Learn more about your child’s first dental visit.
Thumbsucking and Baby Teeth
Thumbsucking is a natural reflex for children. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or anything they can get their mouths on can help babies learn feel safe and secure. Thumbsucking is a soothing action for babies, and can even help them lull themselves to sleep.
Thumbsucking is all well and good, until your child’s permanent teeth come in. Then it can cause problems. Crooked teeth and bite problems can result from thumbsucking. Also, the roof of the mouth can become unnaturally constricted or elevated and the jaws may not develop properly. The intensity of sucking matters, too. Aggressive suckers may even develop problems with their baby teeth.
Children usually stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of two and four years old, or by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Which is good news for those emerging adult teeth! But if you have trouble getting your child to stop thumbsucking, try the following tips.
How to stop thumbsucking:
- Limit the time your child sucks their thumb to when they are in their bedroom or only during naptime
- Praise your child for not sucking
- If your child sucks their thumb for comfort, try to correct the cause of an anxiety
- Recruit your dentist in encouraging your child to stop thumbsucking
- Remind your child of their thumbsucking habit by putting a sock over their hand when they nap or sleep
Children Oral Hygiene & Diet
Just as it is for adults, good oral hygiene and a well-balanced diet are good for children. It’s good for their teeth and it’s good for their overall well being. And good habits start young. So gently clean your baby’s gums after every feeding and give your baby healthy foods.
Even though it may be tempting to let your child fall asleep with a baby bottle in their mouth, don’t. You may not be able to see any baby teeth in your child’s mouth, but they’re there. And they’re just as susceptible to tooth decay. So letting a baby fall asleep with a bottle full of breast milk, formula, juice or any sweet drink is like soaking those developing teeth in sugar. That wouldn’t be good for anyone’s teeth, especially your baby’s, and it can result in baby bottle tooth decay. Good oral health and diet is pivotal to establishing a lifetime full of happy, healthy smiles. All it takes is brushing, flossing, and eating right. The key is to start those positive habits at an early age. Learn more about children’s oral health and diet.
Schedule a Consultation
If you’d like to schedule a consultation with one of our pediatric dentists, visit our Locations page to find our dental clinic near you. Call the clinic of your choice and tell them you’re interested in a consultation with a pediatric dentist. You may also Request an Appointment here.
Family Dental Insurance Dental Associates is the exclusive provider of CarePlus Dental Plans insurance. With CarePlus dental insurance, you can save your family money on dental care, even if you already have dental insurance. Use their Savings Calculator to see how much you can save with your existing dental insurance. Visit CarePlus Family Dental Insurance