Today I’m so excited to share some advice about toddler dental care from my wonderful sister-in-law who is a pediatric dentist. It’s so nice to be able to text a trained professional and get help right away! I thought I’d share some of her wisdom with the rest of you.My son started teething really early. He was around 3 months old when he first started with the characteristic drooling, red gums, and fussiness. I also noticed he would get immediate diaper rash. This was actually the first time I started using diaper rash cream on him. He also nursed like crazy to help relieve the pain.
Here’s a diagram that shows when baby teeth typically begin to erupt. Of course, all babies are different. My son had several teeth before 8 months and his cousin didn’t get her first until after a year! (Diagram source)
Here are a few things we’ve tried for teething. The #1 thing that helped him? Nursing. Above are ChewBeads, Sophie the Giraffe, an Amber Teething Necklace, and a typical ring teether. He really loved to chew on wood and would open our cabinets and bite on them. I also noticed that depending on the tooth, he liked different shapes of things to chew. We have a wide array of teethers at Sweetbottoms, so hopefully you can find something that matches your baby’s tastes!
Since babies work so hard for those precious, pearly whites, I think it’s so important that we do everything we can to take care of them. Here is some advice from the dentist:
What can I do to protect baby’s teeth from decay/cavities?
The number one thing is to make sure you yourself, spouse, or anyone else that is going to be taking care of your baby does not have decay and has good oral hygiene. Cavities are caused by bacteria and the cavity-causing bacteria can be spread person-to-person by saliva.
Sugar and carbs are what gives the fuel for these bacteria to thrive and thus causing cavities. Avoid sticky candies and soda. Limit sweets and if you choose to give sweets give it with meals or around meal times, constant snacking on carbs can also cause cavities.
Give your baby plenty of water throughout the day because that helps to clear the food debris, etc off of the teeth. I do NOT recommend juice, because juice not only has a lot of sugar but is acidic as well so its even worse for the teeth.
Ideally, brush twice a day, morning and night, but obviously this can be a little difficult sometimes! At least try your best to brush at night before bed and let that be the last thing they have (no milk or any food afterwards). If you absolutely cannot brush at night–for example, you are in the car and your baby falls asleep–give some water to drink. You can also clean the teeth off with a wet washcloth. The dentist can apply fluoride varnish which is excellent in preventing decay.
Is night nursing REALLY that bad for teeth? Is there anything I can do to minimize the damage?
Make sure that the teeth are cleaned well before bedtime. If you are concerned about possible decay, you can wipe your baby’s teeth with a wet washcloth afterwards or if baby is still awake try offering a sip of water.
When should I take my baby for his first dental exam? What will happen?
By 1 year, babies should have their first dental exam. The dentist will give information about oral hygiene, apply fluoride varnish, and check dental development. Children often pick up on parents’ anxiety and fears, so try not to let your nervous feeling show if you have them.
Are pacifiers/soothers going to ruin my child’s teeth?
If your child needs something to suck on, a pacifier is better than the thumb because you can eventually take it away. Thumb-sucking tends to be a harder habit to break. It really doesn’t matter what style of pacifier you use (orthodontic or traditional). However, children should stop using one between 12 and 18 months.
My baby grinds her teeth! Is this normal?
This is a very common habit among babies and kids. There’s no need to worry and no treatment recommended at this age. Most of the time they will out grow the habit.
My child is 2 years old, can I start with regular, fluoride toothpaste?
If you child knows how to spit, it’s okay to use toothpaste with fluoride– but start with just a tiny bit! However, if your toddler isn’t ready for spitting, it’s not time for fluoride toothpaste yet.
My baby’s teeth are coming in with big gaps! Is this a sign he will need braces later?
Gaps are actually good in baby teeth because when the permanent teeth start coming in there will be enough space in the mouth.
We started keeping our son’s toothbrush next to ours so we would remember to brush his teeth regularly. It’s easy to forget! The way we would usually do it is to have him lay down and Hubby read him a book. Since he has a tendency to look at books wide-mouthed, I’d use the opportunity to sneak in a brush or washcloth to scrub his teeth. Now that he’s 2.5 he is more cooperative and will willingly open his mouth for the brush.
Do you struggle with caring for your toddler’s teeth? What tricks have you learned?