The following information is kindly provided by MAM Baby
This month is World Oral Health Day (20th March) so we thought you might like to get some tips about oral care for your babies and children. But when should you really begin with babies? What is right? How much is too much? In this article we try to answer some of your queries.
20 Teeth Complete the First Set
- Tooth development begins during the 6th week of pregnancy
- At the time of birth, the crowns of the primary teeth are already formed
- The first teeth are usually visible between the sixth and eighth month
- Primary dentition is complete with 20 teeth and most children are proud owners of all their baby teeth at about 3 years of age
2 lower central (approx. 6th–8th month), 4 upper (approx. 8th–10th month) 2 lower, side (approx. 10th–14th month)
2 lower (18th–24th month), 2 upper (18th–24th month)
2 front lower, 2 front upper (approx. 14th–18th month), 2 back lower, 2 back upper (approx. 24th–30th month)
Oral Ηygiene Βegins at Βirth
Oral care should begin at birth because baby’s teeth are already in place in the alveolar ridge before birth. Once they break through, they are at the mercy of all external stimuli such as bacteria. Therefore the better the inside of baby’s mouth is cleaned, the more effectively the first teeth will be protected from caries.
Caries Can be Avoided
Caries is caused by bacteria – they turn sugar from food into acids, which damage the teeth. The microorganisms do not originate in the mouth of the child but are transmitted through saliva, most often from the closest caregivers who may be completely unaware of this. To avoid these bacteria being passed on, a soother that has fallen on the floor should be cleaned properly – not “licked clean” by an adult. Cuddling in which babies’ mouth is exposed to adult saliva should also be avoided. Caries-promoting bacteria do not emerge on their own: they are passed on. At this point, they can flourish because the new-born has not yet developed his individual, balanced oral flora. Soothers, bottles, spoons etc belong only in baby’s mouth – not in the parent’s.
Children usually develop a relatively stable oral flora by the age of 4. If hardly any caries causing bacteria have set in by then, these are the best conditions for continuing healthy teeth.
Healthy Affection for Tiny Ones
From a very early age, it is good for babies if some of the loving attention they are given is devoted to the lips and the inside of the mouth. This helps them to learn about feeling and that oral care is simply a part of everyday life. A soft microfiber cloth is ideal to gently cleanse inside baby‘s mouth, massage gums and remove bacteria. That way babies get used to daily dental care.
Teething time can be stressful for both babies and parents. It tingles, presses and itches and sometimes it just hurts. Suppositories or herbal gels from the pharmacy, which are accepted differently by every child, may offer relief for acute cases. All of these products (including homoeopathic) are drugs and therefore NOT a permanent solution.
What all babies naturally and happily accept are teethers because chewing and rubbing relieves the pain.
Biting, Chewing, Cooling
It is important to choose teethers which offer babies and toddlers the optimal age-appropriate visual stimulation, textures and chewing surfaces. Babies also train their fine motor skills by using a teether.
- Cooler teethers ease the pain with water filled elements – simply cool them in the refrigerator
- Other teethers supplement daily dental care in a playful way by cleaning baby’s first teeth with soft bristles while chewing
- Mini Teethers fit a specific teething phase and provide targeted relief in baby’s mouth
Healthy Teeth from the Start
Once the first tooth has come through it is time to start with proper dental care.
- Brush teeth daily
- Replace toothbrush every 6–8 weeks and after infectious illnesses
- Regular dental check-ups
- Bottles only for feeding or fluid intake and not for help when going to sleep
- Water instead of sweetened drinks
- Be conscious of soother use.
Time to Brush
For babies and children it is recommended to brush twice a day with a special baby toothbrush. Having the baby lie on the changing table or sitting in your lap is the best way to clean the baby’s teeth. Carefully lift the upper lip with the index finger while cleaning.
Morning and evening dental hygiene becomes an established ritual. After a certain period it will be time to step up to an individual toothbrush, ideally with a short, compact handle which helps to brush just like adults.
By the third birthday, all of the baby teeth have found their place. Using dental floss is helpful, especially when the teeth are close together. Many children brush on their own by now. Checking afterwards and follow-up brushing is recommended until the age of 7. This is when the fine motor skills are sufficiently developed.
Toothpaste from the First Tooth
For babies and toddlers only a smear of toothpaste should be used with an adequate (500+ ppm) fluoride content. From the age of 3 to 6 years a pea-sized amount of toothpaste should be used. It should be as flavour-neutral as possible so it does not encourage swallowing.
Babies learn good brushing habits and healthy eating best from the example set by their parents.
- Eat together at regular times
- Water and unsweetened teas for thirst
- Sweet and acidic drinks (fruit juice, for example) only with meals
- Enjoy sweets for dessert, not as frequent between-meal snacks
- Beware of hidden sugar in foods; tooth-friendly sweets are available at pharmacies
- Neutralise sticky and sugary foods by brushing
Eating and drinking like the grown-ups is not just an important developmental step from baby to toddler but is also good for the teeth and jaw muscles.
Unchecked, continuous sucking on bottles significantly increases the risk of caries. The right bottle contents and an early transition to cup or glass, for example with the help of a developmentally appropriate training cup, are an important step for the healthy development of your child.
… Prevention is better!
Semi-annual dental check-ups should start with the first tooth. The best protection against tooth decay is to never have it!
If you have any unanswered questions then please consult your dentist or medical expert.