A child’s smile: what you need to know, from teething to twelve-year molars.

Age 0-2

The First Tooth

Who says you need teeth to practice good oral health? Follow these instructions to keep your baby’s mouth clean and healthy.

  • Before your baby’s first tooth erupts, clean his or her gums with a damp washcloth after feedings. Cleaning your baby’s gums will help keep bacteria levels low and maintain a clean home for his or her new teeth.
  • Some babies experience sore gums and general discomfort when teething. Signs of teething include crankiness, lack of appetite, excessive drooling, restless behavior, pink or red cheeks, coughing, upset stomach and chewing or sucking of fingers and toys. You can help relieve the pain with teething toys or by giving your baby a cold, wet cloth to suck on.
  • Once that first tooth erupts, use a soft toothbrush and water to brush your baby’s teeth and gums in soft, gentle circles twice a day, and check for any spots or stains.
  • Within six months of getting the first tooth — and no later than the first birthday — your baby should have his or her first dental visit.

Pacifiers

Any mom knows the soothing power of a well-timed pacifier. Believe it or not, the sucking action produces an actual pain-relieving effect, and helps develop the muscles around the mouth! If baby loves binky, here’s what you need to know:

  • Never dip a pacifier in sweet liquids like juice or milk — the sugars react to bacteria in the mouth and create acid that eats away at tooth enamel causing decay.
  • Wash pacifiers regularly in warm, soapy water and rinse well. Never lick a pacifier to clean it–this can pass cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s.
  • Begin weaning your child from the pacifier by age 2 to prevent tooth misalignment and other long-term oral problems. For more on weaning your child from pacifiers, read Delta Dental’s oral health and wellness “How to Wean Your Baby from a Pacifier.”

Bottles

For the first four to six months of your baby’s life, breast milk or formula will provide your baby with all the nutrients that he or she needs to grow. Follow these bottle guidelines to keep your baby happy and healthy:

  • Never let your baby fall asleep with a bottle filled with milk, juice or other sugary drinks. Doing so allows sugar to build up in the mouth and cause tooth decay — often called baby bottle decay. If your child needs a bottle to fall asleep, fill it with tap water.
  • Once your baby can sit up without support, say buh-bye to the bottle and teach your child to drink from a cup.
  • Encourage your child to give up the bottle by his or her first birthday. Bottles, like pacifiers can lead to long-term tooth alignment problems if used for too long after teeth erupt.

For more on bottles and weaning, read Delta Dental’s oral health and wellness article on “Feeding Guide for Baby’s First Year.”


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