Caring for Baby

Taking Care of Baby’s Pearly Whites

Taking Care of Baby’s Pearly Whites

As your baby gets a bit older, those first adorable gummy grins will gradually give way to equally adorable smiles adorned with pearly little teeth. Teething becomes a reality for most babies between the ages of 4 and 7 months, though the timing of the appearance of that first tooth can vary widely.

While the process proves relatively painless for some, teething can provoke crankiness and drooling in other babies, who may want to chew more on solid objects (pull out those teethers!) or their fingers to alleviate sore and tender gums.

Painful or not, new teeth usually emerge in a certain order. The bottom two front teeth, known as the lower central incisors, appear first, followed by the top two front teeth, called the upper central incisors. Next are the first molars, those back teeth that grind up food, and then the eye teeth, the pointy ones on either side of the top front teeth. All 20 primary teeth typically come in by a child's third birthday.

How to Ease Teething

If your baby seems uncomfortable while teething, try these tactics:

  • Rub their gums with a clean finger or moistened cloth.
  • Let your baby chew on a rubber teething ring (NOT filled with gel, which can leak) or a wet washcloth that has been in the freezer for 30 minutes beforehand.
  • Offer teething biscuits, toast strips or unsalted crackers, which are fine for babies already eating solids. Make sure to watch that no pieces break off that pose a choking hazard.
  • Ask your pediatrician if a dose of a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen is appropriate for babies (older than 6 months) who are clearly uncomfortable.

One other thing: it's an old wives' tale that teething can cause fevers or diarrhea. If your baby's temperature is elevated or she seems ill, contact your pediatrician to discuss possible causes.

Brushing Teeth and Gums

Before teething begins, running a damp, clean washcloth over your baby's gums each day is a good way to maintain oral health and prevent bacteria build-up. But the emergence of your little one's pearly whites also signals another process, that of brushing her teeth.

Once the first tooth appears, start brushing once or twice a day with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush topped with a tiny dab of fluoride toothpaste. Until children learn to spit, which happens at about age 3, toothpaste use should be kept to a minimum. Flossing can come later, when two or more adjacent teeth emerge, and is a good habit to get children used to early on.

Baby's First Dental Visit

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you bring your baby to the dentist soon after the first tooth comes in (usually around 6 to 12 months), no later than their first birthday. Teeth and gums will also be examined at pediatrician well-baby visits. A lifetime of beautiful smiles begins now!