Cultivating good oral health and hygiene starts from young. Here's how to make sure your baby has healthy teeth.
Your baby is drooling so much that you have to change his bib frequently. He is also putting everything into his mouth to ‘chew’. He has swollen, and red gums, flushed cheeks and his sleeping pattern seems disrupted. Nothing you do seems to help. He is grouchy, irritable and restless. These are common signs of teething.
A baby’s first tooth usually appears from about 6 months of age, though for some babies, this may be earlier or later. The two lower front teeth (incisors) are the first to appear. The complete set of baby teeth is usually visible in the mouth by the time he is about 3 years old.
A tooth pushing its way out of the gums can be uncomfortable. Here are what you can do to make it less unpleasant for him:
Milk teeth or baby teeth are important. They help your child to chew and speak properly. They also create space for the permanent teeth to erupt in the mouth. Healthy looking teeth are a tremendous boost to a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
Start your baby on good oral habits and dental care early. Begin by cleaning your baby’s gums daily from birth with a small piece of clean wet muslin cloth or a piece of gauze. This will help your baby get used to the daily routine of cleaning his teeth later on.
Brush your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is specially designed for babies. Remember to wipe the surface of his tongue as well.
Fluoride in toothpaste protects your child's teeth from tooth decay by strengthening it. Fluoridated toothpaste containing at least 1000ppm fluoride prevents tooth decay. However, children can get fluorosis on permanent teeth from swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste. Fluorosis results in a change in colour or texture of the teeth.
To prevent fluorosis, ensure that an appropriate amount of toothpaste according to your child's age is dispensed and that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.
By the time your child turns 1, bring him to visit a dentist who can advise you on the appropriate use of toothpaste.
Due to the concern for dental fluorosis, the recommendation for use of a smear amount (size of a rice grain) of 1000ppm fluoride (F) toothpaste for children below 3 years old should be limited to those at high-risk for dental caries. At the first dental visit, the dentist can determine your child's caries risk and make the appropriate recommendation for toothpaste use.
For children 3 years old and above, who are less likely to swallow toothpaste, use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
It is important to cultivate the habit of brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day from a young age, once in the morning and once at night before sleeping. Having good oral hygiene practices from a young age will go a long way in keeping his teeth healthy in adulthood too.
Toothbrushing Guide for children ages 0-2
Oral Health Checklist for children ages 0-3
Some parents give their babies a bottle of milk or sweetened beverage to drink while putting them to sleep. The milk or sweetened drink will pool around their teeth and when not brushed off before bed, it stays on teeth overnight and can cause tooth decay. This is called early childhood caries.
Related: Baby's Here: What to Expect Now
Related: Steps to Healthy Smile (PDF with simple oral health tips for preschoolers)
Related: Visual Screening Guide for early tooth decay detection in children
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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