Important Tips to Promote Healthy Teeth for Your Baby
When will my baby start teething?
Most babies begin teething around 4-7months of age, though this varies. Some babies will get their first teeth earlier and some won’t get them until a year old or later. The first teeth to emerge are usually the lower central incisors (bottom middle teeth), though some babies may get their top teeth first. Signs of teething include: swelling of the gums, fussiness, mouthing or chewing objects, and increased drooling. Some people say that teething can cause fever and diarrhea though this is controversial. Significant fever (>100.4 F, 38 C) or frequent diarrhea is unlikely due to teething alone and you should consult your health care provider.
How can I help my baby during teething?
If your baby is fussy or uncomfortable as the teeth are emerging through the gums, you can help them in several ways. You can massage their gums gently with your finger or a soft cloth, provide teething toys/rings to chew on, or give them a cold wash cloth (wet and place in the freezer for a few minutes) and allow them to chew on it or use it to massage the gums. If very fussy, you can try giving a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for babies over 6 months of age). In general, oral gels, numbing medications, and teething tablets are NOT recommended. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of these medications.
When do I need to start brushing the teeth?
Start cleaning the teeth as soon as they appear. You can use a washcloth, finger toothbrush, or baby toothbrush. You should brush your baby’s teeth twice daily, morning and night (after the last feeding before bed). You can use water or training toothpaste without fluoride at first. Once your child understands how to spit rather than swallow the excess toothpaste, you can switch to a toothpaste with fluoride and use a pea-sized amount. Young children cannot adequately clean the teeth themselves, so they will need your help until age 6 or 7.
Are bottles bad for my baby’s teeth?
Residue from breast milk, formula, juice or other sweetened beverages that is left on the teeth for long periods can cause dental decay. Therefore, babies who are put to bed with a bottle for naps or bedtime are at high risk for dental decay. It’s best if you don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle at all, but if you do, use only water. Also, between feedings, don’t allow your child to carry around a bottle or sippy cup filled with milk, juice, or other sweetened beverages. Finally, it’s best to begin weaning your baby from the bottle after 1 year of age.
Does my baby need fluoride?
After 6 months of age, babies need fluoride to help strengthen the teeth, making them more resistant to decay. Fluoride is added to the water supply in many cities, so your baby may be getting the fluoride they need in their drinking water. Not all cities have fluoride in the water, so talk to your health care provider about whether or not your child might need fluoride supplementation.
When should my child begin seeing the dentist?
Your child should have their first dental visit 6 months after the first teeth emerge, or by their first birthday. At this visit, your dentist will assess the health of the teeth, provide education on the best way to care for your child’s teeth, discuss fluoride supplementation if necessary, and answer any questions you may have about the health of your child’s teeth.
Prevention is key! Following these important tips will help keep your child’s teeth healthy and prevent dental decay. If you have further questions, please consult your child’s dentist or health care provider.
by Christi Klimisch, MD, ValleyCare Medical Foundation Pediatrician
Christi Klimisch, MD is a board certified pediatrician affiliated with ValleyCare Medical Foundation Pediatrics. To make an appointment, please call 925-416-6767.