Babies typically develop their first teeth between six months and one year of age, explains the American Dental Association (ADA), though a good oral care routine should start from birth. To set your child up for a lifetime of good oral health, carefully look after her gums and developing teeth.
Caring for Baby Gums
To keep your baby's gums healthy, wipe her upper and lower gums with a clean, wet washcloth after every feeding. Terry cloth finger cots, which fit over your fingers and are designed for cleaning your baby's gums, can also be used.
If your baby fusses, keep trying. She'll get used to the sensation of having the gums cleaned, and many babies may even learn to enjoy it.
Caring for Baby Teeth
As soon as your baby's first teeth appear, it's time to start using a toothbrush and toothpaste. Twice a day, gently brush your baby's teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush, like Colgate My First toothbrush, and a grain-sized amount of fluoride-free toothpaste. This toothbrush head is specially sized for small children whose teeth are still developing.
When two or more of your baby's teeth are touching, you can start flossing regularly. Flossing helps to remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and beneath the gumline.
Brushing is important because babies can develop cavities just like adults. In the early stages, cavities appear as white spots on the teeth. As the cavities get larger, you may see black or brown spots on your baby's teeth. Bad breath can also be a sign that your baby has a cavity.
Even though your baby's teeth will eventually fall out and be replaced with permanent teeth, it's still important to seek dental care for cavities. Baby teeth help your baby chew and speak, explains the ADA. They also save space in the mouth for permanent teeth, so if the baby teeth are lost too early due to decay, the permanent teeth may emerge crooked or crowded.
Baby Gum Disease
If plaque builds up inside your baby's mouth, she could develop gum disease. When you're cleaning your baby's mouth, check her gums for signs of this condition. Red, swollen gums are a sign of gum disease. Bleeding baby gums are another sign of gum disease; you may notice bleeding after brushing.
Gum disease can be treated with a good oral hygiene routine and professional dental cleanings. If it's not treated early, more invasive treatments, like deep cleaning or surgery, may be needed.
To keep your baby's gums and teeth healthy, start following an oral hygiene routine soon after birth, and make sure to take your baby to the dentist before her first birthday for a checkup.