A child’s primary teeth, sometimes called “baby teeth,” are as important as the permanent adult teeth. Baby teeth typically begin to appear between age 6 months and 1 year. Primary teeth help children chew and speak. They also hold space in the mouth for permanent teeth or “adult teeth,” that are growing under the gums. Baby teeth are usually still around until age 11, long after being a BABY!
The American Dental Association recommends that a dentist examine a child within six months after the first tooth comes in and no later than the first birthday. A dental visit at an early age is a “well-baby checkup” for the teeth. Besides checking for tooth decay and other problems, the dentist can show you how to clean the child’s teeth properly and how to evaluate any adverse habits such as thumbsucking.
When teeth first come in, some babies may have sore or tender gums. Gently rubbing your child’s gums with a clean finger, or a wet washcloth can be soothing. You can also give the baby a clean teething ring to chew on. If your child is still cranky and in pain, consult your physician to discuss solutions. Most children have a full set of 20 baby teeth by the time they are 3.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.
Many factors can cause tooth decay. One common cause is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby.
Tooth decay is a disease that can begin with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria can be passed to the baby.
If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride, they may also have an increased risk for tooth decay. The good news is that decay is preventable.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Try not to share saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers.
- After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth by wrapping it around your finger.
- When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and water. Be sure to consult with your child’s dentist or physician if you are considering using fluoride toothpaste before age 2.
- Supervise brushing until your child is 6 or 7.
- Place only formula, milk or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottles before going to bed.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean—don’t dip it in sugar or honey.
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.
- Encourage healthy eating habits.