By Dr. Brian Rask
As my son is turning one this month and his teeth are coming in, I thought it would be good to give out some tips on caring for your child’s teeth. A baby’s teeth will normally begin to erupt between 6 and 12 months, though some may start sooner or later than that. The incisors, which are the teeth in the front of the mouth, erupt first and your child should have a full set of 20 primary teeth between 2 and 3 years of age.
Your baby may experience sore gums as these teeth erupt. There are special textured teething rings and some that can be frozen to help alleviate their discomfort. Also, a cold, wet washcloth or gauze may help to rub on their gums, along with the simple trick of letting them bite on your finger. Just make sure it is clean! The ADA recommends against using topical anesthetics like Orajel and Anbesol in children under two, as some babies have had adverse reactions to these gels. Consult your pediatrician about them. Liquid children’s acetaminophen administered in the proper dosage will ease you baby’s discomfort as well.
Your child’s first dental visit should occur shortly after his or her first teeth start erupting. This visit is basically to get your child acclimated to the dentist’s office in a non-threatening way. Your child can sit in your lap as the dentist takes a look at their mouth to check the development of their teeth and jaws and look for signs of decay or other abnormalities and risk factors. Your dentist can give you diet, hygiene and home care instructions based on your child’s needs. Some general dentists will treat young children, whereas others will refer you to a pediatric dentist, especially if your child has behavioral issues or needs complex treatment.
To care for your child’s new teeth, wipe them clean, along with their gums, by using a damp washcloth, gauze, or Spiffie’s teeth wipes. As teeth erupt all the way, you can start to brush them with a soft, child size toothbrush and water. Once your child is about two years old, you may start using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to brush with, making sure they spit it out afterwards.
To prevent decay on their baby teeth, make sure to never put your child to bed with a bottle. Avoid giving them too much fruit juice and do not give them soda or other acidic or sweetened beverages. Also, do not dip their pacifier in honey or sugar to get them to suck on it. If you notice any brown or dark spots on your child’s teeth, take them to a dentist because this most likely is decay. If left untreated this may cause pain and affect the development of your child’s permanent teeth and bite.
Sucking on a pacifier or thumb helps to sooth a child and help them feel relaxed. This is okay when they are young, but pacifiers should be discontinued by two years of age and thumb sucking by age four. If they are allowed to continue sucking habits past these ages, the alignment of their teeth and growth of their mouth may be affected.
There is a lot to cover when discussing your child’s dental treatment, so in a future issue I will give you tips on how to handle a child’s dental emergency.