Dental care is important at all ages, even for babies! So important that parents should take advantage of the expertise of an infant dentist or kids dentist like Dr. Ball at Shady Grove Pediatric Dentistry. Here are some tips on how you can care for your child’s mouth right from the start.
Even though your baby’s first primary teeth ("milk teeth" or "baby teeth") won’t grow in until they are around four to eight months old, caring for their gums before teeth emerge is important. The habit of wiping the gums with a wet wash cloth can be a great precursor to cleaning teeth as soon as they begin to sprout. As soon as teeth grow in, oral bacteria start forming a sticky film called plaque. If not removed regularly and properly, plaque eventually leads to enamel breakdown and cavity formation.
Wiping the gums can be done multiple times throughout the day, especially after feedings and before bedtime. Chomping on a washcloth can also help provide comforting pressure if your baby wants to bite to alleviate teething discomfort.
When your little one does finally start teething, it’s normal for them to be fussy and irritable. Common symptoms are difficulty sleeping, lowered appetite, and increased drooling. It’s also normal for their temperature to increase slightly when they’re teething, however, high-grade fevers are not normal and should not be attributed to teething. If your child seems overly cranky or has a high fever, call your baby's pediatrician, because that means someone else is going on.
In cases of a true fever, chances are your baby is fighting a viral infection, and you'll need to provide extra support for proper hydration and pain/fever control with OTC medications such as Motrin or Tylenol, but always ask for your pediatrician's guidance prior to administering any medications. Depending on your baby's age and medical history, use of either of these pain relievers may not be safe or appropriate.
Your baby may seem inconsolable while teething, but here are some things you can do to soothe and ease their pain:
1. Massage their gums. The counter pressure of your finger helps ease teething pain.
2. Use teething rings or toys. Even a simple chilled washcloth will work. Chewing soothes the baby as counter pressure relieves pain. When chilling toys or rings, remember to use only the fridge, not the freezer.
3. Relieve pain. As mentioned previously, it may be fine to give your baby a weight-appropriate dose of Tylenol or Motrin, but check with your pediatrician first to be sure there are no reasons why this may not be a good idea in your child's case. If cleared for use, a dose at bedtime can sometimes make a big difference between a very fussy or relatively uneventful night.
***Avoid teething medications that contain the local anesthetic pain reliever benzocaine. Examples of this would be Orajel or any generic version.
The American Dental Association recommends taking your child to an infant dentist or kids dentist as soon as their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. Once teeth appear, you can also begin brushing. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, start brushing your child’s teeth twice a day. Since very young children haven’t yet learned to not swallow toothpaste, use only a smear of fluoridated toothpaste or the size of a grain of rice.
Good oral care starts from the beginning of your child’s life. We’re here to help you every step of the way! If you have any questions concerning infant oral health care or teething, call or make an appointment with Dr. Ball today. You can also check out our business page to learn more about us. Baby teeth may be small but they’re important!
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