My girl was an early bloomer. She had her first tooth when she was just two months old — at least I think so. I was so pre-occupied with work stuff, household chores and new mommy duties that I don’t know for sure when it first arrived. I DO remember using a clean, damp washcloth to gently rub that little tooth into existence.
Every baby is special and unique. Some babies will have their milk teeth, aka baby teeth, almost completely by 18 months, while some are just about to start in the teething journey. In most cases, teeth development is due to genetics. If late teething runs in the family, then there is a pretty high chance that your child will develop teeth on the later side, not that it matters.
But lack of nutrients and vitamins are the other factors that can contribute to late teething. For instance, if you are using baby formula exclusively for your baby, you might consider mixing breast milk and baby formula to ensure that your baby is getting enough calcium and vitamin C to support bone development, boost immunity and lessen the risk of delayed teething.
No matter late or early teeth though, dentists say the best way to care and safeguard your baby’s teeth is to start dental care early. That means cleaning your baby’s gums with a soft, damp cloth, after feedings, before the first tooth arrives, and then after a tooth arrives, beginning a brushing routine. As soon as Baby’s first tooth pokes through the gums, you can add gentle brushing to his daily morning and nighttime routine. Make sure that you use a soft-bristled brush on Baby’s new teeth, and just a teeny dot of toothpaste. When two teeth arrive next to each other, start the flossing routine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five kids ages 5 - 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. My daughter was 2 when I first took her to our family dentist. I was confident that her teeth were in good shape because we never missed a day of brushing and flossing. To my surprise, the dentist found three cavities which needed treating. He recommended having one of my daughter’s teeth extracted to prevent dental caries from spreading, but I opted not to do that since she was only 2. I don’t know if I made a mistake or not, but she has beautiful, strong teeth today!
No matter what, don’t take your kids’ dental care for granted. Serious teeth problems can affect appetite and speech development if they go undetected. Here are simple tips for taking good care of your baby’s milk teeth.
Gum Care – Proper dental care starts even before your baby’s first teeth are out. Removing the bacteria off the gums is important to remove any plaque that can damage the developing baby teeth. Moisten a soft gauze or cloth and gently wipe the gum. Make it a habit to clean your baby’s gum before bedtime and after feedings.
Brushing – Brush teeth twice a day. Use a soft toothbrush. Start with a small dab of fluoride toothpaste — as small as a rice grain — and incrementally increase this to reach the size of a pea.
Flossing – Good dental care includes flossing, yet many kids skip this part. Snodgrass-King Dental Practice says as soon as your child has two teeth that touch, you can begin to teach flossing dental habits. Be extra gentle with kids and never apply so much pressure that it hurts.
Regular dental visits – Prepare your child before a scheduled visit. Help him understand the importance of the checkup and try to remove any anxiety or negative feeling that he (or you!) have about the appointment. Have a good relationship with the dentist and ask important questions such as those related to teething, proper oral care routine and managing dental problems.
Be a role model – Parents are the first teachers and role models of for children. Be a good example to your kids. Show them the right way of flossing and brushing the teeth. Limit sweet and starchy snacks in the house. Above all, be there for them and always remind them how important dental health is to your life.
BEST BRUSHING TIPS
• TRACK YOUR KIDS' DAILY HABITS
For toddlers and young children, a stamp or sticker may be reward enough for a good brushing/flossing session, but if you
have to sweeten the incentive with a daily matchbox car or other small item, do it.
• “Sesame Street” provides printables for little ones to enjoy as a way of reinforcing good habits. Go to sesamestreet.org/printables, then scroll to the “Staying Healthy” batch.
• TRY AN APP
BRUSH DJ (Android/iOS). An award-winning app that makes brushing fun, the app lets you choose the music you want for two minutes of brushing.
BRUSH UP (Android/iOS). The app uses your phone’s camera as a “virtual mirror” so kids can watch themselves brush. Kids earn rewards for proper brushing techniques.
TOOTHSAVERS (iOS). There’s a fairytale storyline with this app, giving kids incentive to save the game’s kingdom by removing a cavity-driven spell.
BRUSHEEZ LITTLE MONSTER (iOS). With this app, kids play with Little Monsters before brushing starts. Next, the Little Monsters guide your child through the brushing activity.
BRUSH TEETH WITH THE WIGGLES (Android/iOS). Great for little wigglers, Wiggles’ characters and other kids are featured brushers there to inspire your child. Rewards, too.