Interesting Answers to Your Baby’s Dental Needs

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‘Since my baby has no teeth yet, when should they have their first dental exam?”

As a pediatric dentist, I often get asked this question by pregnant mothers. Believe it or not, a baby’s teeth begin forming in a mother’s first trimester. You simply can’t see them because they are hiding under the gums! When a baby’s first tooth comes in (a milestone for sure) at 6 – 12 months, then it is recommended that you see a pediatric dentist.

Why so early? Because early examination and preventive dental care will help your baby to have a healthy smile right from the start. Although it is true that your baby’s teeth will fall out, they serve as placeholders for his/her adult teeth. Additionally, your baby will learn to talk and eat over the next year, so you want to make sure there will be no problems speaking or chewing.

What Dental Problems Could a Baby Have?
Even though your baby doesn’t have teeth, it’s important you take care of his gums. Start with a gentle washcloth or a piece of gauze and wipe down your baby’s gums twice a day. This is especially important after meals and before bedtime to wash away any bacteria.

First tooth pop out? Now it’s time for a soft brush toothbrush with a small head. Start with water so he gets used to the motion and progress to a very small amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste. It is best not to move to fluoridated toothpaste until he’s two. Your child will probably be at least 5 – 7 years old before he can brush his teeth effectively by himself.

Bottle feeding, breast feeding and baby food can lead to tooth decay. Never let your baby fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water. From a dental point of view, children should be weaned from a bottle at 12 – 14 months. Try not to give your baby/infant fruit juices or sugary drinks because this can cause tooth decay or what is known as “baby bottle tooth decay”.

How Can I Help Child Get Through Teething?
It can take up to two years for your baby to get all his teeth. As those teeth start erupting through the gums, many babies get cranky and their nose starts running. It hurts! Use a cold spoon, a cold washcloth, or a teething ring, or massage your baby’s gums with your finger (that you have washed beforehand of course).

Do Baby’s Teeth Break Through the Gums In A Certain Order?
In most cases yes. You may have heard baby teeth referred to as primary teeth, milk teeth or deciduous teeth. Here is the progression:

  1. Lower front two middle teeth – between 6 and 10 months
  2. Upper front two middle teeth – between 8 and 12 months
  3. Upper teeth to the right and left of center – 9 to 13 months
  4. Lower teeth to the right and left of center – 10 to 16 months
  5. Upper first molars – 13 to 19 months
  6. Lower first molars – 14 to 18 months
  7. Upper cuspids – 16 to 22 months
  8. Lower cuspids – 17 to 23 months
  9. Lower second molars – 23 to 31 months
  10. Upper second molars – 23 to 31 months

What About Thumb Sucking?
Ah, the curse of dentists is thumb sucking or pacifiers, yet we are aware how soothing these can be to a baby (and in turn, his parents!) Most children naturally quit sucking their thumbs by the age of two. For those die-hards, however, there are dental devices that can prevent it because we know long term thumb sucking can lead to bite problems.

Remember that your baby’s teeth may be tiny, but they still need regular brushing. You’re never too young to start a good preventive dental program and start your baby on a lifetime of good dental habits. It may save you from paying for braces later!

About the Author:
Dr. Serge Kupetz, D.D.S. has practiced full-time at Midtown Dental Group in New York, NY for more than 10 years. With an emphasis in implantology, cosmetic, and laser-related dentistry, he is highly accomplished in the latest techniques for crafting a perfect smile for his patients. A member of the American Dental Association (ADA) and the New York State Dental Association (NYSDA), Dr. Kupetz earned his B.A. and D.D.S from the prestigious New York University College of Dentistry.