Caring for Your Child’s Baby Teeth

A young boy and girl looking at the camera, smiling and brushing their teeth.

An infant or child will have their teeth for only a few years. However, those years are extremely important for setting up a person’s oral health for life. Parents will have the responsibility to take care of their child’s baby teeth until they are able to do it on their own. Caring for infant teeth will be somewhat different than caring for a child’s baby teeth, but this is easy to do if you have the right knowledge and tools.

 

The Baby Teeth

When infants are born, they don’t have teeth yet. However, those baby teeth are actually already formed and lie high up in the jaws. Those teeth are made up of minerals such as calcium and phosphate and are very compacted, which is how the teeth are so strong. Even though the baby teeth are tiny, the teeth are still the strongest substance in the body. Their compacted mineral content (about 96%) makes them stronger than bones.

 

Your infant will eventually have 20 baby teeth. This process can take up to 3 years from start to finish. Most infants start to get their baby teeth between 3 and 9 months, but some can take well over a year to get the first tooth. This process can be difficult for a child, as the teeth must travel through the gums and eventually break the surface—a process known as teething. Did you know that once a child has their first baby tooth, that tooth must get proper oral hygiene care?

 

A young father helping his son to brush his teeth.

How Should You Care for Them?

When your child gets their first baby tooth, invest in a baby gum brush and some infant or child toothpaste. A gum brush will be a brush that is rubbery and one that you can slip over your finger to brush your infant’s teeth as they sit on your lap. Use the smallest amount of fluoride toothpaste and brush the teeth they have. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry actually recommends that children have an oral exam around 1 year or within 6 months of getting their first baby tooth.

 

If nothing else, make sure your child sees a dentist before age 3, so a dentist can monitor the progress of incoming teeth. In the meantime, practice good oral hygiene care for your little one at home:

  • Brush their teeth twice a day, just like you would for yourself. Do this after an infant has had their bottle at night or in the morning. Never put a bottle down with an infant at night, as drinking throughout the night exposes the baby teeth to sugars in milk. This can lead to what is known as “baby bottle tooth decay”. It can decay an infant’s delicate baby teeth rapidly.
  • Wait for flossing until your child has more teeth. Generally, flossing is not needed until more baby teeth come in and the teeth start to get closer together.
  • Limit your child’s sugar foods. Too many children fill up on sugary and starchy foods, which all break down into sugar. That leads to oral health problems, as sugar is what decays the teeth. The less sugar they have, the less tooth decay they will have.
  • Don’t give your child soda and or juices. These decay the teeth from the carbonic and citric acid in the drinks. Opt for better options such as water sweeteners like Crystal Light. If you can, only stick to water and milk for children.
  • Have your child see the dentist every 6 months for comprehensive exams and dental cleanings.

 

A dental hygienist examining a child's teeth with a scaler tool.

Adult Smiles Start at Infancy

Sometime around age 7 or 8, your child should have their mouth examined by an orthodontist. We can observe incoming baby teeth and how they fall out to make way for adult, permanent teeth. However, when bite and alignment problems are present, only an orthodontist can fix those orthodontic issues. We can start to see those issues around those mid-childhood years, which is the best time to fix them. Bite and alignment issues can cause speech impediments, problems chewing and eating, and oral health problems such as increased tooth decay or child gum disease.

 

Crooked teeth or alignment problems can also lead to a baby tooth falling out, and an adult tooth coming in at the wrong place. Then, all the teeth will be in the wrong spot, which can lead to major oral issues later on. The baby teeth are incredibly important because they can determine how a teen and adult’s smile is in the future. If the baby teeth are healthy and taken care of, they will stay in the mouth instead of prematurely falling out. When bite and alignment issues are corrected during childhood via braces, the adult teeth can come in straighter and easier. Any oral health issues that are major should be fixed when a child is young, as the jaws are a bit softer and oral changes can be made without too much stress to a child.

 

Dental Help for Your Child’s Baby Teeth

To give your child the best chance possible with their oral health, make sure you take care of their baby teeth meticulously until they are able to on their own. Take them to the dentist. Play games with them as you brush your teeth with them, or play a song or video for the 2 minutes they are supposed to brush. Set a good example of great oral care by your own example. And, of course, make sure you are going to your dental exams and cleanings biannually, just like they should be. To schedule that exam or to ask questions about caring for your child’s baby teeth, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-8425!

 

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