We love gummy baby smiles, and when those first few tiny teeth come through, nothing is cuter! As your little one hits these milestones and eventually gets a full set of baby teeth, you have the opportunity to teach your baby the habits which will ultimately result in excellent oral hygiene for life.
Why We Have Baby Teeth
Baby teeth are also known as primary teeth or deciduous teeth. They actually begin to develop beneath your baby’s gums before he or she is born. They make their appearance (or “erupt”) at about 6 months of age, although this timing can vary greatly, which is usually completely normal. Front teeth typically come first, with the molars coming in later. Your baby will eventually develop 20 primary teeth in total.
At around 6 years of age and until the age of 12, baby teeth begin to become loose and fall out. These teeth will be replaced by a set of 32 permanent teeth. For this reason, many people don’t understand the importance of baby teeth. Some parents assume that since they are going to fall out anyway, caring for them does not matter that much.
But that could not be farther from the truth. Baby teeth are vital for several reasons. First, baby teeth are placeholders, holding the space for permanent teeth. And, of course, your baby needs his or her teeth to chew food and learn to speak.
How to Care for Baby Teeth
Even baby teeth can get cavities, which can be uncomfortable for your child. In fact, the enamel on baby teeth is thinner than permanent teeth, so they are more susceptible to decay. So caring for those tiny pearly whites is essential. This is also the time to teach your child about caring for their teeth.
Before Teeth Erupt
Even before your child’s first teeth appear, you should start practicing oral care habits. Use a soft washcloth or gauze to wipe your baby’s gums and tongue. This gets your baby used to the routine and feeling of tooth brushing.
Brushing Baby Teeth
When baby teeth appear, brush them thoroughly but gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. A soft brush will be less likely to scratch the delicate enamel of your child’s teeth. Try to work up to two minutes of brushing using a timer. As your child is able, encourage them to try brushing while you supervise.
Choosing a Toothpaste
There are toothpaste options specially made for babies and young children. These are the better choice because they are less abrasive than adult toothpaste. Baby toothpaste should also contain fluoride. However, your baby may swallow toothpaste before learning to spit it out, and this can result in an upset tummy. If this happens and you choose a fluoride-free toothpaste, be sure your child is getting fluoride in their daily vitamin. Just make sure you choose baby toothpaste without sugar!
Use just a pea-sized amount to brush your child’s teeth. It may take some time, and you may need to try a few different varieties to find one your child enjoys.
Love Your Baby’s Teeth
The earlier you make oral care part of your baby’s routine, the better. But remember, it is never too late to start! Prioritizing toothbrushing early in your child’s life means he or she will be more likely to continue good oral hygiene down the line.
In addition to making brushing twice daily a habit for your baby, toddler, or child, you should also bring them to the dentist for regular visits twice a year. Begin this important routine by calling us to schedule your child’s appointment within 6 months of your child getting their first tooth or around their first birthday, whichever comes first.