First-time parents face plenty of joys – and challenges – during their child’s lifetime, especially during those first few years when everything is new and – often – unexpected. There’s the first smile, first steps, first words, and – of course – those first little baby teeth.
But there’s much more to those tiny baby teeth than just watching them pop through! Good dental care for your child begins as soon as you see that first incisor…and continued diligent care becomes especially important as your child grows.
Watching for that first tooth
Your child’s very first tooth – located at the top front – generally appears at about 6 months-old but can certainly come earlier as well as later than that, so there’s no need to fret it your baby has already reached that age and there’s no sign of a tooth. You’ll likely recognize when it’s coming because your child will probably experience some discomfort.
Remember, your child’s first set of teeth are there when he/she is born. You just can’t see them because they are hidden under the gums! But when they’re ready to come out, you’ll see the upper and lower incisors first (think 2 front teeth!), followed by the others around those and, eventually, the molars, which usually appear after the child turns a year old, and then the “eye teeth”. A full set of primary teeth numbers 20 and, for most kids, they will have all arrived by about age 3.
Dealing with Baby Teeth
Teething can be frustrating, trying, scary…and can last a long time! That’s what makes it especially challenging for new parents. But if they have some idea of what to expect and how to handle their child’s discomfort, this period of babyhood can go a lot smoother and won’t overwhelm all the joys of those first few years.
First signs of teething
Because teething happens at different times for every baby, parents are often on the lookout for when that first tooth will arrive. Good clues to look for are more frequent drooling and your baby’s desire to chew on things. The chewing can help relieve the discomfort of teething and is a natural reaction from the child.
Other children might display some prolonged periods of irritability. If that’s unusual for your otherwise-happy child, that might trigger some concern. Your baby might cry more than usual, become fussy about eating, and may not sleep well. If this becomes overwhelmingly concerning, it’s okay to call your doctor but, in most cases, these things will cease once a tooth appears. If a high fever develops, do seek attention from your pediatric dentist as that is generally not a side effect of teething.
Making teething easier
Often, parents feel a bit helpless to relieve their baby’s teething related pain, but there are a few things that can be done to lessen the discomfort.
● Wipe your baby’s face often so that the excess drool won’t
cause a rash.
● It’s okay to use your clean finger to rub your baby’s gums. He/
she may want to chew on it a bit as well.
● Find something else appropriate for the baby to chew on but
make sure it doesn’t present a choking hazard. A wet washcloth
is a good idea as are rubber teething rings. Choose the ones that don’t have liquid inside just in case of breakage. Put them in the
refrigerator, not the freezer. Giving a baby a frozen teething ring
could damage or bruise their already-tender gums. Teething
biscuits are NOT appropriate for little ones who don’t yet eat
● Ask your pediatric dentist if it’s okay to give
your baby the appropriate dose of acetaminophen, which should
help with the discomfort. Avoid teething gels, which may not be
safe for babies.
Start a dental care regimen
Even before the first tooth appears, you can begin good dental care by wiping your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth. When you see the first tooth, you can start brushing it once a day with water and a very miniscule amount of fluoride toothpaste. (When a child is able to spit out the excess, you can increase the amount of toothpaste used.)
Once all 20 teeth are in, brushing them twice a day and especially after meals is a wise idea. Helping children brush is a good idea. If you’re bottle feeding, never put the baby to bed with a bottle of milk. The milk can pool in the mouth and cause rapid tooth decay. It’s a bad habit! Also avoid the sugary juices that were once encouraged for baby’s nutrition.
That’s no longer the case. Finally, the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend you bring your baby to his/her first dental check-up within six months of the appearance of that first tooth. With consistent visits and care, your child gets to know their dentist and becomes accustomed to dental care.
If you have not found a dental home for your child or you have more questions about teething please call Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry at 907-562-1003 to schedule an appointment with one of our board certified pediatric dentists. We look forward to meeting you!