Whether you’re a first-time parent or you’ve just had your fifth child, the moment you finally see your new baby face to face brings indescribable joy. And the moment that little one flashes its first toothless smile…is priceless. Especially because that cute no-teeth smile won’t stay that way for long!
About six months later, the first tiny tooth will show up. Then another. And another. By the time kids are three years old, their primary teeth (which we like to call “baby” teeth) should all be in. Then when they’re around six, they start losing those baby teeth and getting permanent teeth instead.
It may seem like there’s not a lot to do for a baby to have good oral care, but when kids are infants is the best time to start practicing good dental care. The responsibility is all on the parents in the earliest months of a child’s life, but over time, healthy kids learn to take care of their teeth just like their parents do.
What’s important for parents to know about taking care of their littlest ones’ teeth and gums? When should you take them to the dentist for the first time, and how can you help your kids grow up with healthy dental habits? Let’s talk about it!
How To Take Care of Your Infant’s Gums and Teeth
“Clean your baby’s gums after every meal by wiping them with a damp rag or cloth. This step will remove bacteria and food particles from the gums. Once teeth start to develop, place a very small amount (about the size of a rice grain) of fluoride toothpaste on a damp cloth, and gently clean your baby’s teeth.” – Cleveland Clinic
The Cleveland Clinic also reminds parents not to let their babies fall asleep with a bottle, even if it’s not filled with a sweet drink like fruit juice. Milk and formula may seem the least likely to cause tooth decay, but when babies fall asleep with any liquid other than water in a bottle, they are at a higher risk for tooth decay.
Just remember that even before your children get their first baby teeth, gum health matters. It’s important to give your kids a solid foundation of oral health so they can grow up without all the troubles that tooth decay and other dental health challenges create.
When To Take Your Child to the Dentist for the First Time
Some parents like to take their little ones to the dentist as soon as the first tooth comes in — that’s when babies are around six months old. Experts say that’s great timing, but you may be wondering why so soon.
The experts at Colgate explain, “By catching any developing conditions early, your dental professional will be able to diagnose and treat them effectively. They will do what they can to ensure your baby is set up to have a healthy smile for life. Your pediatric dentist will be able to check for tooth decay, injuries, and other issues during your visit and will be able to track changes in your baby’s mouth as they age.”
And of course, if you see anything unusual in your baby’s mouth, go ahead and schedule an appointment.
What To Expect at Your Child’s Earliest Dental Appointments
Know that you’ll be able to stay close to your baby at those early appointments. Dentists want their patients to be comfortable, and the more comfortable the little ones themselves are, the more likely they’ll continue to make dental care a regular part of their lives.
At the first visit, the dentist will want to know about your family’s oral health history and will ask you specifically about your baby’s habits. For example, the dentist may ask if your little one likes to use a pacifier or sucks her thumb. The answers to these questions will help the dentist assess the baby’s oral health and make recommendations to you. The dentist will also look inside your baby’s mouth for a full examination of the gums, teeth, and general inside of the mouth.
How To Help Your Kids Learn To Take Care of Their Teeth
Model good oral health care – As parents, you’re your kids first teachers, and they’re relying on you to show them the ropes. That’s why modeling good oral health care is so important. Let them see how well you take care of your teeth so they’ll learn how to take care of their own.
Brush your teeth and floss together with your kids – A part of modeling good oral health care is brushing and flossing with your kids. It’s also a great excuse to spend a little time together in a fun way, of course. You may not have a lot of time or desire to brush alongside little ones every single day, but pick a night during the week that’ll be the routine or make it a special treat on the weekends.
A lot of people have made brushing a consistent practice but forgotten to prioritize flossing. Be sure to include both in your routines with your kids so they grow up with built-in habits for both brushing and flossing. Of course, you’ll want to help your younger children floss until they’re able to do it for themselves.
Make tooth brushing fun, especially in the early years – To make the experience a fun one for you and your kids, the American Dental Association suggests setting a timer. “Crank up your child’s favorite song and have a two-minute dance party. Videos or brushing apps may also make that time fly by. Try reading a 2-minute story [to your kids] using all your best voices.”
Keep regular dental appointments so your kids are not afraid of the dentist. Getting your children to the dentist when their first teeth appear and then keeping regular appointments will help them get used to having someone poking around in their mouth at a very early age. The sooner kids learn to trust (and not be afraid of) the dentist, the better set up they are for a lifetime of good oral care.