Children are highly susceptible to dental decay, but the good news is that tooth decay is preventable. Teaching your children good dental habits from an early age is crucial to maintaining a healthy smile. In fact teeth cleaning should begin from the first sign of the very first tooth. Here, Dakota Murphey, mother of two has put together some teething facts, teething remedies and top tips for keeping your babies teeth in good health. Give your little one the best chance to have a perfect smile right through to adulthood.
Teething is perhaps the first ritual in life. While some babies go through the teething process smoothly, others have a terrible time and it’s a relief for parents when the first round of teeth are through. During the first few of years of life 20 baby teeth should push their way through the gums. Your child should have a full set of first teeth by about the age of 3.
The first tooth usually makes an appearance when your baby is about 6 months old. The first few teeth are usually the worst. Baby teeth can stick around for a while. With the exception of wisdom teeth, your child won’t lose all of his or her baby teeth until around the ages of 12 or 13.
It’s not uncommon for babies to become fussy and not feed as well. They may even get irritable or angry when teeth are cutting through. Diarrhoea, nappy rashes and fever are common symptoms of teething. Your child may also dribble excess saliva and develop flushed, rosy cheeks. It’s not uncommon for babies to rub their ear on the same side as the erupting tooth. Call your GP if you are concerned with any of the symptoms, especially for fevers and rashes.
- If your baby’s gums are hurting, you can massage them gently with a clean finger. You may like to cover your finger with a piece of muslin cloth.
- If your baby is 6 months or older you can try a stick of carrot or cucumber chilled in the fridge. Once teeth are through it’s best to avoid giving food that can be bitten into, and avoid using hard foods that could break off as they could be a choking hazard. Always supervise your baby with food sticks.
- Use a teething ring (again you can chill in the fridge, but never put in the freezer).
- Teething gels can be helpful. Most contain local anaesthetic and antiseptic. Be sure to use one that is sugar-free and suitable for babies. Don’t use medicines as a matter of routine. Try other methods first.
- Homeopathic teething granules are stocked by most pharmacies. Some mums swear by them.
Plaque (a source of bacteria) and sugar combine to create acid which then dissolves the outer enamel of the tooth. Once a cavity starts it can progress rapidly, especially if there is a lot of plaque and a diet with lots of sugary foods (that includes fruit).
Some parents are relaxed about the health of baby teeth because they are temporary, but first teeth reserve the space for second teeth. If teeth become cavity ridden and infected they may have to be removed. Cavities are essentially decay caused by bacteria in the mouth. Any infections left untreated could spread to adult teeth.
Prevention: teeth cleaning tips for babies
Keeping plaque low with good teeth cleaning is half the battle. The other half of the battle is to keep dietary sugar low. Once your child is 6 months’ old, the best drink you can give, besides breast milk, is water. It’s important only sips of water are given to begin with as a baby who satisfies appetite with water will miss out on the nutritional needs from feeds. Don’t be tempted to introduce juice or squash. It’s full of sugar and will harm teeth. It can also cause diarrhoea.
Here are our top tips for beginning a good teeth cleaning routine.
- As soon as your baby’s first tooth cuts through, begin cleaning the tooth twice daily. At first you may wish to do this with a piece of clean gauze or muslin. Wrap it around your finger and rub around your baby’s tooth or teeth. It’s not necessary to use toothpaste at this stage.
- Once there are a few teeth, using a soft baby tooth brush to clean the teeth twice daily is best. Try to gently clean the gum line as well as the baby’s teeth as you brush. It’s good to start a healthy teeth cleaning routine straight away. Most dentists, such as Black Swan teeth whitening specialists, recommend using a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Some practitioners advise delaying the use of toothpaste until your child can spit out.
- Try not to put your baby to bed with a bottle or breastfeed him or her to sleep. Milk can pool in the mouth at night and lead to tooth decay.
Further advice can be found on the NHS website. You can search for your nearest dentist on the British Dental Association’s register, which lists over 6,000 dentists throughout the UK.
Your child’s first dental visit should be as soon as his or her first tooth breaks through. In the UK NHS dental care for children is free. It’s important to take your child to the dentist as soon as teeth appear as decay can occur even at this early stage. Decay in milk or baby teeth should be taken seriously as the health of these teeth can have an impact on second teeth. Getting your child comfortable with regular dental visits is a great way to ensure you set up a healthy dental routine.
This article was written by Dakota Murphey, an independent content writer and mother of two boys.