For those of you who are parents, you can probably remember how stressful life is after you have your first child. Suddenly, the world looks very large, scary and seems filled with all kinds of germs and dangers to our precious little ones!
Cooper, my son, was born in October of 2015, and I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent on Google. My husband jokingly refers to it as “Dr. Google,” because any time our son coughed, sneezed, or wheezed I was instantly on Google to see what the best remedy was to cure what ailed him!
However, when his first two bottom teeth came in, I was confident in how to best care for his pearly whites. After all, I AM pretty well-acquainted with teeth! I started thinking that many new parents may not be familiar with caring for their baby’s teeth! Here are some tips and tricks on how you can start your baby off with a healthy smile, as well as teaching him or her healthy habits to last a lifetime.
Most babies don’t get their first teeth until at least 6 months old, but my little sister got her first tooth at 3.5 months old. Every "little one" is different. This chart is a pretty good representation of what sort of time frame you can expect to start seeing some teeth sprout through the gums.
Oral hygiene should begin well before babies cut their first tooth. The best way to care for babies’ gums is by taking a wet wash cloth or gauze and gently wiping their gums, especially after feedings and before bed time.
Once the first baby teeth start to pop up you can graduate to a toothbrush. Choose one with a soft brush, small head and a large handle. At first, all you will need is a wet tooth brush. Tooth paste isn’t really necessary until about 3 years old. Finding a tooth paste with fluoride will help strengthen the enamel and help prevent tooth decay. Brush all around your baby’s teeth including the tongue side, the biting surface, and the cheek side.
Parents should be brushing their children's teeth until the child is old enough to hold the toothbrush, but even then it’s likely a good idea to supervise the process until they can rinse and spit on their own (which is usually around 7 or 8 years of age.) Even at this age it is important to establish flossing as a habit. Primary teeth usually have much more spacing than adult teeth and can trap food easily. As a parent, you can gently use your own floss or find flossers for kids that your child can learn to use on their own.
As far as dental visits, many pediatricians recommend seeing a dentist once the first teeth erupt. The visit is more for educating parents about baby tooth care, fluoride, teething, etc. Babies likely won’t tolerate much of an exam, let alone a professional teeth cleaning done by a hygienist, but this visit will start to introduce the idea of the dentist to the child. We will reward them after their visit with a toy from our treasure chest which will leave with a positive image of what to expect at our office. No matter the age of your child, keep your dentist's phone number on hand in case of emergencies. Falls, bumps and other accidents that relate to teeth are better handled by a dentist than an emergency room staff.
Most importantly, try to avoid using trigger words or phrases like “Okay, it’s time to be brave at the dental office!” By implying the child needs to be brave they then begin to wonder what is there to fear. Dentistry has come a long way in the last few decades. While many of us remember the early days of dentistry as being anxiety-ridden and terrifying, technology and advancements in the field have made dentistry much more comfortable. In the event your child needs restorative dental work done (fillings, crowns, or even extractions) we have many tools in our office available to make your child’s experience as pleasant as possible. From laughing gas, to topical numbing jelly, to drill-free fillings with our laser, you can rest assured that your child won’t be white knuckled in the dental chair with faces like this hovering over him!
Oral health care starts first and foremost with the parents. Set a good example by brushing and flossing often and making routine appointments with your dentist. We know children might be apprehensive about the dentist so we take extra care to make them feel safe and comfortable. After their visit to Designer Dental, we know they'll be grinning from ear to ear and excited to come back and see us!!
- Jessica, Dental Assistant (and Cooper!)