As a first time mother and a dentist, this was a topic I was extremely interested in!
First, a little background on how these teeth arrive. The first teeth to erupt in most infants are their lower central incisors. This typically occurs around 6-10 months. Signs that teeth are coming in are red and tender gums, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping. Cold (not frozen) teething rings and a clean, damp washcloth are great choices to soothe sore gums. Do not use teething gels. These can be harmful to your baby. Please consult your pediatrician for advice on an appropriate analgesic/pain reliever if the above don’t do the trick.
Ideally, you want to clean your baby’s teeth and gums after each feeding. It is important to clean your baby’s teeth at least twice per day and once before bedtime. Do not let your baby go to bed with a bottle of anything but water. It is important to go to sleep with clean teeth to prevent tooth decay.
How to clean these little teeth? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends brushing with a rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste from the time of eruption of the first tooth. After the age of three, a pea-sized amount is appropriate. You can start out with a moist cloth, but it is best to use a small, soft toothbrush. Flossing should begin at least once daily as soon as teeth are in contact with each other.
Another important step in preventing cavities is to avoid the spread of bacteria. You can transfer cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s by sharing utensils or toothbrushes, pre-chewing food, or putting his or her pacifier in your mouth before giving it to your baby. The longer these teeth stay bacteria free, the lower the chance of them getting cavities.
Once these teeth have erupted, it is time to seek professional help. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend that your baby should have their first dental visit between the eruption of his or her first tooth and first birthday.
Why is this important?
- To assess risk for dental diseases and conditions
- To make a custom preventive dental health program based on your baby’s risk factors
- For guidance about growth and development issues like teething, thumb/finger or pacifier habits, and feeding practices
- To make a plan for emergency dental issues
- To receive information about proper care of your baby’s teeth and gum tissues
- Starting healthy habits by exposing your child to routine dental care at an early age
- And for referrals to other dental specialists if your child’s needs are beyond the scope of general care