Normally, a child has a full set of 20 baby teeth by the age of two to three years. The children first dental visit should be right after the eruption of the first tooth or by the child’s first birthday.
When new teeth break through their gums, babies are irritable. There are signs and symptoms as: frequent crying and crankiness, slight fever, reddened cheeks and drooling, appetite loss and upset stomach, diarrhoea, sucking or gnawing on toys, pulling the ear on the same side as the erupting tooth.
To help relieve the discomfort of teething, the Australian Dental Association gives some tips:
- Washing your hands and then gently rubbing your baby’s gum with a clean finger.
- Give your baby a teething ring or wet washcloth to bite.
- Teething rings can be chilled in the refrigerator before use to help manage gum swelling and pain. Do not put teething rings in the freezer!
- Give your baby non-sweetened rusks to chew on.
- Ask your dentist or pharmacist for advice before using any pain reliever specifically created for babies and toddlers. Never give aspirin to a baby or young child.
Another thing you should consider in regarding baby’s oral health is thumb sucking. This is a natural reflex in babies and young children. Children who continue to suck their thumb or fingers after the permanent teeth have appeared risk developing crooked teeth. Also, speech defects may arise, especially with the “s” and “th” sounds. Encourage the child to give up thumb sucking and if necessary ask your dentist for advice if your child cannot stop thumb sucking.
As soon as your baby develops their first tooth, they are at risk of dental decay. Here are some advices to help in preventing this:
- Avoid settling your baby to sleep overnight with a breastfeed or bottle of milk, sweetened flavoured milk, cordial, soft drink or fruit juice.
- If your baby needs to suck on something to sleep, offer a dummy rather than a bottle.
- Encourage your baby to learn to drink from a toddler cup from 12 months of age.
- Before bed, gently wipe down baby’s teeth with a moistened cloth before putting them to sleep.
- Avoid giving your baby or toddler frequent snacks – three meals and two snacks per day is ideal to meet dietary needs. Diet plays a significant role in the health of your child’s teeth. Your child should enjoy a variety of nutritious foods, especially foods rich in calcium and low in acids and sugars. Offer your child a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, lean meats and dairy products. Limit sugary snacks such as lollies, fruit and muesli bars, biscuits, dried fruit, cordials, juices and soft drink.
- Make sure you clean your child’s teeth morning and night.
- Maintain a good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing teeth and having regular dental check-ups.
In order to brush your baby’s teeth, you may:
- Once baby teeth appear, use a baby’s toothbrush with a small head and soft with rounded bristles. Replace the toothbrush regularly, every one to three months.
- Up to 18 months, brush their teeth with plain water.
- Special low fluoride toothpastes can be used around the age of 18 months. Just a very small amount.
- Teach your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. But don’t rinse his mouth with lots of water. Leaving a bit of toothpaste residue on the teeth makes the toothpaste work better.
- Have the toothpaste out of reach of the children because some of them like it too much and they can eat it.
- Having your baby on your lap, facing away from you, helps you reach the teeth more easily. Brush with small, gentle circular movements, concentrating on the area where the teeth and gums meet.
- If your baby doesn’t like having the teeth brushed and squirms away, try giving them their own toothbrush to hold. It is very probable that they will feel in charge. You can even let them to have a go by themselves. Of course, with your help.
- If you can, let your baby watch you brushing your teeth as often as possible. The power of example!
- You can seek guidance to your dentist or dental hygienist. They will be happy to help.
Starting with the age of two and a half, you can floss at least twice weekly in areas where the teeth are touching. Flossing helps remove bacteria from between teeth and keeps the gums healthy. Slide the floss between the teeth and gently work it up and down, against the surfaces of each tooth. After flossing, have your child rinse with water. And finally, brush your child’s teeth.
Try to make it as fun as possible, with songs, colours and play!