From the moment parents learn they are expecting a baby, they embark on a whirlwind of preparation. In addition to the shopping for baby furniture and clothing, parents also “shop” for a pediatrician and plan for well baby checkups. While every aspect of a new baby is researched and planned, the issue of when to consider oral health can be confusing. In fact, many parents do not even think about oral care until teething begins, but a baby can benefit from oral care even before birth.
Oral health begins in the womb
The problem with not considering oral health care until Baby sprouts his first tooth is that the tooth was already formed months ago. The circumstances surrounding the formation of teeth while the baby is the in the womb can play a big role in oral care later. Toronto’s International Association for Dental Research published a study linking a pregnant mother’s intake of vitamin D during pregnancy to the oral health of the baby. The study found that mothers who were deficient in vitamin D during the teeth formation phase were more likely to have children with tooth enamel defects. With that in mind, the very first step towards taking care of your child’s teeth is to eat a well-balanced diet and consistently take a high-quality prenatal vitamin.
Oral care from birth to six months
Although a baby’s first tooth doesn’t emerge until around six months of age, it is still important to clean your baby’s mouth. However, you won’t need a brush at first. Simply take a clean, damp washcloth and wipe your baby’s gums. While this gentle cleansing can be done daily, take care to avoid excessive pressure. Wiping down the gums will help to clean the mouth and remove bacteria.
Once teething begins, your baby’s gums are likely to become inflamed, more red, and sensitive to the touch. Offering your baby a chilled teether is one way to soothe those tender gums.
How to care for baby’s first tooth
Even when your baby’s first tooth pops in, you can trade in the washcloth or gum cleaning brush for a children’s toothbrush. The optimal brush for an infant is a soft-bristled brush with a small head. As many children’s sizes are available, be sure to check the suggested age on the package and choose accordingly. Even a brush meant for an older child can be too big for an infant’s small mouth.
- Use a training toothpaste: these pastes do not contain fluoride and are often in children-friendly flavors like berry or bubblegum
- Apply a thin smear of toothpaste and gently brush the tooth and the gums.
- Brush twice each day to instill good habits.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks, including undiluted juice.
When to schedule a baby’s first dentist appointment
Most dentists recommend scheduling a child’s first dentist appointment after his/her first tooth comes in, usually around six months of age. This is important as preventative care can help manage any potential problems promptly. Please note that Dupont Dental does not see children until they are three years old because this is the age when children can typically fully understand and cooperate. We always recommend seeing a pediatric dentist if your child needs to be seen sooner. If you need to have additional questions, feel free to call us at 202.296.7714 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.