Last updated January 7th, 2021
Every chapter of a child’s life weaves a thread of experience more for the overjoyed parents. You always would want to make it perfect right from the start. When you start splurging on your newborn’s essentials, you’re probably adding that finger brush and a cute themed toothbrush as well. But how soon should you use it on your baby? Do you maybe wait for a couple more teeth to make brushing functional than cleaning that lone tooth?
All dentists recommend brushing your baby’s tooth as soon as it comes out. This is not just to clean it, but also to establish your baby’s good oral care habit early. However, tooth or no tooth, proper gum care should start even before its appearance. Bacteria may still leave plaque on gums that can cause damage to his teeth when it erupts. So while waiting for his first pearly white, it’s only necessary to clean your baby’s gum and mouth regardless of his age.
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When will a baby tooth come out?
It’s exciting to watch out for that first bulge in the baby’s gum to fully reveal itself. But admittedly, this will be a difficult journey, especially for breastfeeding mothers. And no, we do not just mean the drooling and fussiness and sleepless nights that you will spend with him. It’s mostly about nipple biting that will make you hate your kid a little bit on the side. Still, you need to aid your baby’s discomfort in this trying time of his life.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a baby’s first tooth may appear starting from 6 months to one year of age. But it varies from child to child. So don’t worry if your baby’s first tooth comes earlier or later than the others. Some babies may have theirs as early as their four months or as late as fourteen months. It will also take up to two years for them to fully complete their set of baby teeth.
Teething is one of your baby’s painful moments other than his immunizations. This is characterized by red and swollen gum, general crankiness, more biting, or more drooling. You can alleviate this by massaging his gum with a cloth or letting him chew on a teething ring.
Are fever and diarrhea symptoms of teething?
You probably have other mothers telling you that your child has diarrhea because he is teething. But experts do not see loose poop as a precursor for it. Healthline points this event to the fact that your baby’s tooth comes out by the time he is starting on solid food. Thus, the culprit is more on his digestive adjustments.
Babies may also have an elevated temperature, but he should not run a fever higher than 100.4°F. A body temperature higher than that may indicate some infection. When that happens, you need to visit his doctor.
Here are common teething symptoms:
- Mild fever (no higher than 100.4)
- Refusal of solid food
- Gnawing on things
- Drool rash
- Cheek and ear-pulling
Cleaning a newborn’s mouth
Brushing your newborn’s mouth is an important little step for oral health. Although your baby’s tooth is yet to come out, it has the tendency to become damaged once it does. This is due to bacteria growing in the gum surface where the teeth are supposed to grow.
Bacteria in the mouth are not kind to ages and will thrive even in your baby’s delicate mouth. A few days after birth, you should already start cleaning your baby’s mouth and gums to wipe away milk residue. You can use a soft cloth or gauze around your finger and dip it in lukewarm water. Gently rub this in his tongue, gums, and his inside cheek.
If you neglect cleaning your newborn’s mouth regularly, it may lead to a white tongue or thrush. This is the white coating of yeast that may grow on your baby’s tongue, inside cheeks, or roof of the mouth. These patches may become painful for the baby and can spread to a mother’s nipple when breastfeeding.
It is important to note, however, that not all white coating in your newborn’s mouth is thrush. They may appear in similar appearance, but sometimes it’s actually just milk residue. It’s completely harmless and easy to clean with a damp cloth. If the patches are not removed by wiping, then it’s probably thrush and you need to call your pediatrician.
Brushing your baby’s teeth
Good oral and dental hygiene is one of the important earlier habits that a parent should establish in a child’s life. Brushing can be challenging for toddlers later on if they are not used to a routine. This will be a seat for tantrums and flat-out refusal to some.
Here are some helpful tips for brushing your baby’s tooth:
Choose the right toothbrush
Aside from the traditional toothbrush that adults are using, infants have specially designed toothbrushes for their little mouth. For your baby’s first tooth, a finger toothbrush will be ideal since it is safer and you can control the pressure to put on. It is usually a rubber or silicone brush head with bristles.
If you want to start his brushing journey with a traditional toothbrush, choose a soft-bristled one. It should also have a small head to fit his mouth. A toothbrush with a long handle will make it easier to reach the back of his mouth when brushing.
But remember never to use an electric toothbrush for your little one. It can wait until he is three years of age. Don’t get tempted with the sonic features, sounds, and all entertainment that it offers. Only toddlers will benefit more from such toothbrushes to keep their routine more fun and engaging.
Use low-fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride is very useful in warding off cavities and tooth decay. It also strengthens the enamel and prevents the growth of bacteria in the mouth. People have varying opinions on using fluoride, and maybe so do you, especially since the infant is more likely to swallow a portion of the toothpaste.
According to ADA, it is still safe to use fluoride toothpaste for babies in a safe amount. A safe amount for a child is equivalent to a teeny bit no bigger than a grain of rice. You can just increase the amount to a pea-size later on. Children at three years of age will be able to spit it out effectively. But until he gets better at spitting, use fluoride toothpaste at a minimal amount.
Positioning the baby for brushing
Not all children are a fan of brushing teeth. And with babies, this could be challenging for parents. This is why an early brushing routine is really important to help your baby embrace his oral hygiene earlier. His experience doesn’t need to be perfect. You just need to help him get accustomed to a habit.
Here’s one way of positioning your child so he can get the most out of brushing.
- Let your baby sit on your lap, with his head resting on your chest.
- Tilt his head a little and brush the tooth in circles. Brush his gums too.
- Encourage him to spit the toothpaste out.
- If the baby won’t spit, tilt his head down to let it trickle down.
When he is old enough, you can guide his hand to help him brush properly. According to Gresham Family Dentistry, when kids are coordinated enough, they should be able to do it on their own. Children will usually improve their dexterity by six years old. But then, you need to still be around to supervise until he can get it right. Children should utilize the needed two minutes of proper brushing.
Your baby’s dental visit
Regular check-up is important for your baby’s oral health. You should not see a dentist only when the child is already losing the baby set for his permanent teeth. A regular visit to an oral health professional will spot any problems earlier and prevent damages.
So when your child hits one year old, take him to your family dentist or a pediatric dentist for an oral assessment. Expect a full dental exam, oral tissue check or cleaning, and those kinds of stuff on your visit. Your dentist will need your child’s complete health history so you need to prepare that too.
Babies as early as a year old can be included in your dental health insurance plan if you’re wondering. It may seem unnecessary, but this is actually helpful to cover up for the unexpected as they grow older. Humana insurance company, for example, can cover up a dental care plan for the entire family.
Dental health care and habit is important for the whole family. If you are welcoming your newborn, you should put his oral hygiene in check as well. This will prevent episodes of unwarranted toothache and dental problems.
Proper oral hygiene and care should start as soon as your baby is born. Before the baby’s first tooth comes out, regular mouth and tongue cleaning should be done. This is to prevent harmful bacteria from building inside the mouth that can cause problems like thrush and tooth decay.
An early brushing regimen will jumpstart your baby’s brushing habit. Guide him from the start until he can do brushing on his own. Your baby’s excellent oral health will build a strong foundation for his overall wellness. After all, oral health is the window to your child’s overall health.
Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She had experiences in handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also used to train in labor rooms and pediatric wards – helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.