Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your infant’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your baby will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Caring for gums
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your infant's gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.
Baby’s first tooth
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.
At this stage, toothpaste isn’t necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn’t react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don’t give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months, then try the toothbrush again.
During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.
Brushing with toothpaste
When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child’s brush. For the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, unless advised otherwise by your dentist, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters.
At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing to prepare him or her for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.
Don’t give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is vital.
Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle: sugary liquids in prolonged contact with the teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also known as baby-bottle caries.
First visit to the dentist
It’s recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption — usually around the first birthday. Because decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely she or he can avoid problems.
We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for the teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
Setting a good example
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits.
As soon as he or she shows interest, provide a toothbrush and encourage the child to brush with you. You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy for little ones to grip.
Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to clean their own teeth thoroughly until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job on their behalf. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing.
The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!
Along with favorite blankets, teddy bears, and nap time, thumb-sucking can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood. According to a recent report, between 75% and 95% of infants suck their thumbs, so chances are there's a thumb-sucker (or a former thumb-sucker) in your family. Is this cause for worry?
In most cases, the answer is no. However, it's important to pay attention to your child's habits, in case his behavior has the potential to affect his oral health.
What is normal Thumb-Sucking Behavior?
Most children begin sucking their thumb or finger from a very young age; many even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.
According to the Canadian Dental Association, most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them. However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower his chances of continuing to suck his thumb). If your child is still sucking when his permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.
What Signs Should I Watch For?
First, take note of how your child sucks his thumb. If he sucks passively, with his thumb gently resting inside his mouth, he is less likely to cause damage. If, on the other hand, he is an aggressive thumb-sucker, placing pressure on his mouth or teeth, the habit may cause problems with tooth alignment and proper mouth growth. Extended sucking affects both the teeth and the shape of the face and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future.
If at any time you suspect your child's thumb-sucking may be affecting his oral health, please give us a call or bring him in for a visit. We can help you assess the situation.
How Can I Help My Child Quit Thumb-Sucking?
Should you need to help your child end his habit, follow these guidelines:
- Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb-sucking, give praise when he doesn't suck.
- Put a band-aid on his thumb or a sock over his hand at night. Let him know that this is not a punishment, just a way to help him remember to avoid sucking.
- Start a progress chart and let him put a sticker up every day that he doesn't suck his thumb. If he makes it through a week without sucking, he gets to choose a prize (trip to the zoo, new set of blocks, etc.) When he has filled up a whole month reward him with something great (a ball glove or new video game); by then the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in his treatment will increase his willingness to break the habit.
- If you notice your child sucking when he's anxious, work on alleviating his anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb-sucking.
- Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides, while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions.
- Explain clearly what might happen to his teeth if he keeps sucking his thumb.
Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the thumb-sucking habit.