5 Tips for Caring for Baby Teeth: A Foundation for Lifelong Oral Health

Oral hygiene for baby teeth.

Oral Hygiene for Infants

When that first little tooth makes it through the gumline, it brings on a whirlwind of emotions. First you realize that your baby is growing up! Then come the nerves. What if you aren’t taking care of your little one’s teeth properly? After all, nearly a fourth of children have at least one cavity by the time they are 5. Are you missing something?

Take a deep breath and keep on reading. You’ve got this! 

The Importance of Baby Teeth

Those tiny teeth do more than just look adorable! Teeth play a large role in proper childhood development. An improper bite or missing teeth, for example, can lead to speech problems such as a severe lisp or mispronunciation of certain sounds. And it’s not hard to imagine how teeth affect eating ability. If your child can’t chew food properly, it can create digestion issues later on.

But there’s another purpose of those baby teeth that often goes unnoticed: maintaining enough space for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth comes out prematurely, the neighboring teeth will shift to fill in the gap over time. This will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the adult teeth to come in properly! This can lead to costly orthodontic interventions in the future. Here’s how to make sure you’re setting your child up for good oral health early on.

1. Learn what to look for.

Little ones aren’t exactly known for being able to communicate clearly. It’s just part of being a baby or a toddler! But this does make it particularly difficult to know when a young child has a cavity. What should you look for? The signs and symptoms can be different for each child, but here are a few things to keep an eye out for.

White spots on their teeth can be an early sign that the enamel is breaking down. Typically, this spot will darken as the cavity forms. If your child is complaining while eating their favorite foods, this could also be a sign that something is going on. A cavity-inflicted tooth may be extra sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks.

Remember: If you notice any changes in your child’s oral health, whether unusual-looking spots or oral sensitivity, it never hurts to contact their pediatric dentist. It’s always better to get it checked out than wish you had. The earlier the diagnosis, the easier the treatment.

2. Start an oral care routine before the first tooth comes in. 

Caring for your child’s teeth starts from day one. Even before that first tooth makes it through the gums, it’s important to wipe the gums after each feeding. This whisks away any pesky bacteria. Once that first tooth is through, it’s time to start brushing. It can be hard at first, as it’s a new routine. But stick with it, and make it a fun experience. Once there are two teeth next to each other, it’s time to introduce floss as well.

When it comes to toothpaste, fluoride toothpaste is preferable in small amounts. The general rule is to use an amount the size of a rice grain until your child turns 3.

If your child is a little strong-spirited and doesn’t want to sit still to get their teeth brushed, know you’re not alone. Just keep at it. It will be worth it in the end, we promise! Have them help you with your own oral routine. You can also let them have a turn “brushing” their teeth after you’ve thoroughly brushed first. Whatever works best for your little ones is the right answer! 

3. Limit sugary foods and drinks. 

Try to limit sweet treats and drinks to keep the sugar from sitting on those teeth for prolonged periods. Cavity-causing bacteria feed on those sugars, producing acid that attacks the tooth enamel. This is the same reason you should avoid giving juices and bottles in bed, as the overnight exposure can quickly cause bottle rot.

4. Start dental visits early.

If caring for the teeth starts from day one, when does the dentist come into the picture? The answer is the same! When that very first tooth makes it through the gums, it’s time to give us a call to get your little one in for their very first dental visit. This visit will not only ensure that their teeth are coming in properly but also get the child used to the routine and limit the chance of dental anxiety as they grow.

5. Help relieve teething pain.

Teething is hard on everyone. Those sleepless nights seem to last forever. Thankfully, there are some safe ways to help your little ones with their newest tooth. An over-the-counter remedy such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help your child get comfortable and get some sleep after an especially rough day. Just be sure to use the medication as directed or ask your pediatrician for the appropriate dosage if it’s not included on the package.

Something as simple as a damp rag or spoon from the refrigerator (not freezer!) can do wonders for sore gums. You can also put a little pressure with a clean finger on the gums to give them a little massage.

You’re not alone.

Caring for a little one can feel overwhelming at times. You know that their early oral care directly affects their lifelong dental health, and you want to do the right thing! Be patient with yourself; sometimes life does get in the way of even the most perfectly laid plans. Remember that we at Palmer Lane Family Dentistry are here every step of the way. Whenever you have questions or concerns about your child’s oral health, an appointment is just a few clicks away!

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