Caring for Your Baby’s Smile

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A new baby introduces hundreds of sweet joys and curious questions to your life. From little toes to tiny teeth, the prospect of caring for your infant’s health can seem overwhelming.  We’re here to help!  In this post, we answer five of major questions about your baby’s oral health.

1. Do you need to clean your baby’s gums before teeth erupt?

Yes, you should keep your baby’s gums clean, even before his or her teeth erupt.   Starting good habits with your baby now will help to make good oral hygiene habits second nature in the future.  Though oral bacteria poses little threat to your infant’s gums, laying a strong hygiene foundation is important.  You may not notice the exact moment your baby’s teeth begin coming in, but at that point oral bacteria begin to interact with the newly developed teeth.

To prepare your baby for tooth development, wipe his or her gums with a soft washcloth or gauze. Don’t use fabric that may shed fuzz in your child’s mouth.  Don’t use toothpaste yet–just remove any lingering milk or formula.

2. When should you expect your baby’s teeth to come in?

Most children get their first teeth between the ages of 6 to 8 months. Children develop 20 primary teeth by the age of 3. For most children, tooth development follows this timeline:

  • 4 to 7 months: Lower central incisors (the bottom middle teeth) appear.
  • 8 to 12 months: Upper central incisors (the upper middle teeth) erupt.
  • 9 to 13 months: Upper lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the upper central incisors) develop.
  • 10 to 16 months: Lower lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the lower central incisors) show up.
  • 13 to 19 months: Upper first molars (wide upper teeth near the back of the mouth) appear.
  • 14 to 18 months: Lower first molars (wide lower teeth near the back of the mouth) develop.
  • 16 to 22 months: Upper canines (the pointed teeth) fill the gaps between upper incisors and molars.
  • 17 to 23 months: Lower canines (the pointed teeth) erupt in the space between lower incisors and molars.
  • 23 to 33 months: Upper and lower second molars appear.

3. What’s the best way to clean your baby’s teeth?

When your baby’s teeth begin to erupt, you may switch from a washcloth to a baby toothbrush. These brushes have small heads and soft bristles. Brush your child’s teeth twice daily.  Use a small amount of non-floridated toothpaste for infants and small children. We recommend waiting to use floride toothpaste until your child has developed the coordination to not swallow while brushing.

Brush the front and back of each tooth. If your baby will let you, brush his or her tongue as well.

4. When should your baby first go to the dentist?

At each of your infant’s well-baby exams, your pediatrician should take a look at your baby’s gums and teeth. But we invite you to schedule an appointment with us within 6 months of your child’s first tooth eruption. Even if your child’s teeth haven’t begun to appear, you should still bring him or her into the dentist’s office by his or her first birthday.

5. How often should you take your baby to the dentist?

We will give you specific recommendations during your baby’s first visit. However, dental professionals generally recommend that your child have a checkup every 6 months. The frequency of your baby’s dental visits will depend on his or her tooth development and oral health.

Remember, each infant’s health progresses slightly differently. If you have specific questions about your baby’s oral health, ask us any time! Your pediatrician should also provide guidance on your baby’s oral development during well-baby exams.