Like many first-time moms, I over-prepared for everything
before my daughter, Alyssa, was born. In the oral care department alone, that meant I
had teething toys and baby Orajel all ready to go. I knew about teething fevers
and prepared a bag
of tricks for dealing with the inevitable mouth woes my little one would
Around nine months, Alyssa started drooling profusely and
developed a low-grade fever. I knew the time had come, and, sure enough, two
little bottom teeth erupted soon after.
“Those are teeth!” I exclaimed, holding her lip down so my
husband could see. “Oh my gosh, our baby girl has teeth. I can’t believe it!”
“This is amazing!” my husband said. “So, now what?”
For once, I was speechless. Now what, indeed. I spent so
much time fixating on teething troubles and symptoms, I’d neglected to research
what to do when teeth actually arrive!
(My daughter) actually cries when we put our
I thought there was no way my daughter needed to actually
brush her teeth at this young of an age. I thought maybe all I’d have to do is
swirl her mouth with some water before bed or something. But the fact is, as
soon as teeth appear, oral hygiene begins.
Brush your baby’s teeth for about 20 seconds twice a day
with a soft-bristled toothbrush. There are many training toothpastes out there
marketed to children, but there’s no reason they can’t have small amounts of
adult toothpaste. For children under 3, squirt on a rice-grain-sized amount
of the toothpaste you use, fold their lips back and brush away.
Like anything you want to train your baby to do, make it
part of a consistent routine and make it fun. My husband and I set our
daughter up on the bathroom counter (which is special because she’s not allowed up
there otherwise) and brush our teeth in front of her first as a demonstration.
Then, we brush her teeth for 20 seconds. After that, we let her take control of
the brush so she can practice on her own. She loves it and will even try to
pry open our mouths to brush our teeth for us. She actually cries when we put our
This change is something my family is still working on. At
some point, it may have become the norm to put your baby to bed with a bottle
of formula, milk or breastmilk. Once your little angel has teeth, however,
this needs to stop.
The milk, formula or breastmilk in your baby’s mouth will
sit on his or her teeth for eight hours (or longer, if you’re lucky) and can
cause tooth decay. This is because when your child is awake, he or she is
chewing on things, babbling and constantly opening his or her mouth. These
actions promote saliva, which cleans the mouth. At night, however, saliva production
slows down, and the milk or formula will just sit there on the teeth.
Start your transition by switching to water in the bottle at
night, and don’t give milk or formula until your child has brushed his or her
teeth in the morning.
3. Going to the Dentist Once the First Tooth Emerges Will Save You a Lot of Stress
Some sources say to take your child to the dentist as soon
as the first tooth emerges, but others will say you can wait (the amount of
time varies). I got tired of wading through all the theories and picked up the
phone instead. I called Dr. Price, my dentist, who has been taking care of my
teeth since I was my daughter’s age. He said that he typically asks parents to
bring their child in for an initial visit when the first teeth appear. However,
that visit is aimed at parental education, not necessarily doing anything
special to the child’s teeth. Many parents don’t know how to care for their own
mouths, or are a smidge lazy about their own oral health.
I told Dr. Price what I’d discovered in my own research
about brushing and eliminating night bottles. “All that’s what I would have
told you, had you come in for that first appointment,” he told me. “You always
do a great job with your oral care. Just teach your daughter the same thing.
I’m not worried about you.” He reassured me that if I ever noticed anything out
of the ordinary, or had any concerns, I could bring her in whenever I thought
she needed to be seen. However, barring any problems, he didn’t need to see her
until she turned 3.
Needless to say, it's time to examine your own oral hygiene routine. Do you
brush and floss? If not, it’s time to start. Not only that, start brushing and
flossing in front of your children. Kids always want to do what the big people
are doing anyway, right? If you have questions, or are confused by conflicting
advice and information, call your trusted dentist. Here’s to no cavities!