Dental Hygiene: How to Care for Your Baby's Teeth
Healthy teeth are important to your baby's overall health. Teeth help your baby chew food and form words and sounds when speaking. They also affect the way your baby's jaw grows.
When will my baby's teeth appear?
Generally, teeth start appearing between 4 months and 7 months old, but every baby is different. When your baby starts teething, you may notice that he or she will start to drool more or may want to chew on things. The first teeth to come in are usually the 2 bottom front teeth.
What can I do to help my teething baby?
Teething may be painless, but sometimes it can make babies uncomfortable and fussy. Teething does not cause a fever. Talk to your doctor if your baby has a fever. The following can help relieve your baby's discomfort:
- Give your baby a cold teething ring or a cold washcloth to chew or suck on.
- Rub your baby's gum with a clean finger.
- Ask your doctor if you can give your baby infant's acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol). Do not give your baby aspirin. Aspirin can cause Reye's syndrome, a serious illness that can lead to death in children under 18 years old.
Ask your doctor before using teething gels.
What about breastfeeding, bottles, and sippy cups?
Teething does not have to interfere with breastfeeding. You can continue to breastfeed your baby as usual if he or she starts teething. If you give your baby a bottle, always hold the baby when you feed him or her. Do not leave a bottle in the crib. And do not let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. The milk can pool in your baby's mouth and cause tooth decay.
For the same reason, do not give your baby a sippy cup of juice or milk in the crib. Your baby can start using a sippy cup when he or she is about 6 months old. Stop giving your baby a bottle when he or she is 1 year old. Do not let your baby walk around with a sippy cup unless it has only water in it.
After your child is 1 year old, give him or her water or plain milk between meals instead of other drinks. If you give your child juice or flavored milk (like sweetened milk products), only give it with meals. Juice and flavored milk have a lot of sugar in them.
When should I start brushing my baby's teeth?
Start cleaning your baby's teeth twice a day as soon as the first tooth appears. Until your child is 1 year old, you can use a wet washcloth or gauze to clean your baby's teeth and gums. Start using a soft baby toothbrush and a small dab of toothpaste that does not have fluoride in it when your baby is between 1 year and 18 months old. (This type of toothpaste is safe for your baby to swallow.)
When should I take my baby to the dentist?
Be sure to take your baby to a dentist by his or her first birthday, especially if there is a high risk for cavities or any other problems with his or her teeth. It is better for your child to meet the dentist and see the office before he or she has a tooth problem.
- A practical guide to infant oral health by JM Douglass, B.D.S., D.D.S, AB Douglass, M.D., and HJ Silk, M.D.( 12/01/04)
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.