After weeks of drooling and fussing, your baby finally sprouts a little tooth out of her gums. It takes almost two years for her gummy smile to transform into a pearly one showing two full rows of baby teeth.
Many of us take baby teeth for granted but the truth is, baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth. They help kids in chewing and speaking, making it crucial to get kids started off with good oral care. Not only that but these teeth also act as placeholders for the permanent teeth growing under the gums. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth will drift in the empty spaces, making it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when they come in. This may result in crooked or crowded teeth.
Healthy baby teeth means healthy adult teeth. Hence, a bit of care and an ounce of prevention can protect the child’s teeth for decades to come.
When do baby teeth start coming in?
A baby has 20 primary teeth present in the jaws at the time of birth. These teeth start sprouting one by one when the baby is between 6 months and 1 year. During teething, the baby may have sore and tender gums, which might cause discomfort and make her cranky. Using teethers or massaging the baby’s gums with a clean finger or a gauze can help relax the baby and relieve discomfort. The baby should have all 20 primary teeth by the time she is 3.
Taking your baby to the dentist
It’s recommended to take your baby for a dental checkup as soon as she sprouts her first tooth or by her first birthday, whichever comes first. The dentist will check for any signs of decay and will also advise you how to properly clean your baby’s teeth and care for them. She can also offer advice on any adverse habits your baby might have like thumb sucking.
Do you need a pediatric dentist?
Although your family dentist can most probably perform treatment on babies and children, you might want to go to a pediatric dentist. A pediatric dentist receives two or more years of advanced training and are well versed in child psychology, growth and development. Most pediatric dentists have kid friendly offices, a welcoming staff and friendly personalities that could relax the child and make her comfortable.
Caring for your baby’s teeth
It’s important to start caring and cleaning your baby’s teeth right from birth. Before their teeth come in, make a habit of cleaning their gums with a moist gauze pad or washcloth. And when their teeth start coming in, brush them with a fluoride toothpaste. You don’t need much toothpaste, just about the size of a grain of rice. For children above 3, use a pea sized amount of toothpaste and brush their teeth twice a day. You should also start flossing their teeth once they get a full row of teeth or when two teeth touch each other.
Preventing tooth decay
Tooth decay can occur as soon as the teeth have come in. To prevent tooth decay, avoid filling your baby’s bottle with any liquid other than water and milk. Fruit juices, sodas, and sugary drinks can cause dental cavities. Sweet drinks can settle on baby’s teeth; the bacteria feeds on the sugar and cause decay, also known as baby bottle tooth decay.
Poor oral hygiene is another reason for tooth decay. Make sure you brush your child’s teeth twice a day and particularly before going to bed. If the child eats too many snacks and sugary food, ask them to rinse their mouth after eating so the sugar doesn’t settle on the teeth.
Tooth decay in babies and toddlers not only causes pain but also leads to tooth loss if it’s left untreated. It’s important to schedule regular appointments with the dentist so they can spot a tooth decay early on. If you wait for an emergency, the decay might have deepened so much that it becomes hard to save the tooth.
Another problem with baby teeth is the adverse habit of thumb sucking. Thumb sucking, though normal and soothing in children, can cause many dental problems. A child’s teeth may not align properly or the teeth may be pushed outward causing an overbite. The roof of the mouth may also become malformed. These problems may even continue when the permanent teeth start coming.
Hence, taking advice about thumb sucking and breaking this habit is important if you want to protect your child from many dental problems she could suffer from even as an adult.
Caring for your baby’s teeth is, therefore, just as important as caring for your own teeth. Negligence about it can cause dental problems that might last for decades and need special treatment from orthodontists. It’s important to take your child for regular checkups and also provide good oral care on a daily basis.