Baby's first toothWednesday, February 05, 2020
BY CANDIECE KNIGHT
WHAT'S that little pearly nub that's brightening up your baby's smile and causing you to see stars when she latches onto your breast? It's her first tooth! You can finally see why baby's gums have been swollen and irritated these last few days. So OK, first tooth. Now what?
The first thing you can expect is another tooth right next to that one, since babies usually sprout up the biters in pairs. Most babies will grow their lower central incisors (bottom front teeth) first, followed by the two at the top, somewhere within their first year. Others might grow the top teeth first or even still be gummy bears long after their first birthday, which is perfectly normal. Regardless of the order or the time they start teething, most children will have their 20 primary teeth by three years old.
Dental surgeon Dr Sharon Robinson says you can go ahead and start brushing your baby's first tooth as soon as it appears.
“Baby teeth may be small but they're important; they act as place holders for adult teeth,” she said. “You start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they start to come through.”
She highlights, however, that good oral care begins even before the first tooth.
“You can start caring for baby's gums right away, but at first the care won't involve a toothbrush and toothpaste,” she said. “Before the baby starts to grow teeth you can get a soft, moistened washcloth or piece of gauze and gently wipe down your baby's gums at least twice a day. Especially wipe your baby's gums after feedings and before bedtime.”
As soon as you start to see white peeking out however, you can start protecting your baby's smile from bacteria and harmful acids.
“Choose a toothbrush with a small head, large handle and soft bristles,” she recommended. “You can try a fun brush with a favourite character and bright colour, and use a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste.”
Fluoride is essential in hardening the enamel on the new teeth and helping to prevent future tooth decay. It is safe to introduce small amounts of this mineral to your child's diet from six months.
“But while a little fluoride is a good thing for your baby's teeth, too much of it can lead to a condition called fluorosis, which causes white spots to show up on your child's adult teeth,” the dental surgeon warned. Therefore, it's important to use a small smear of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice), and allow the child to spit the toothpaste out once he/she knows how to.
Dr Robinson recommends that you brush baby's teeth gently for about two minutes (depending on cooperation) in the morning and right before bedtime, and replace the toothbrush as soon as the bristles start to look worn or splayed.
But tooth care goes beyond brushing, she advised.
“Putting baby to bed with a bottle of milk (or worse, juice) is notorious for causing cavities. Don't leave your infant with a bottle for long periods of time, especially if you notice he's no longer feeding and is just using the bottle for comfort. Avoid giving your child fruit juices, sodas, and other sugary drinks. Give water instead,” she said.
Dr Robinson recommends that you don't wait until the first signs of tooth decay, discolouration and minor pitting to bring your child to the dentist. You can bring the baby in for a check-up as early as six months old.
“And let him or her watch mommy and daddy take good care of their own teeth so baby learns that it's a habit to keep for life,” she prescribed.
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