The first erupted teeth commonly known as milk teeth or deciduous teeth are often neglected with the thought that they will be ultimately replaced by permanent teeth. The resulting tooth decay and cavities lead to difficulty in chewing, speech and of course a cosmetic problem. Early loss of primary teeth also affects the eruption pattern of the permanent teeth resulting in crooked looking teeth. Therefore establishing a good oral care habit at an early stage helps to avoid a lot of potential tooth problems.
An oral hygiene routine should be started even before the teeth erupt in the mouth. To help prevent the buildup of plaque bacteria that can lead to decay, we as dentists highly recommend regularly cleaning your newborn’s gums with a soft wet gauze pad that has been wrapped around your finger. Begin doing this step at least once per day from as early as 2 months of age.
As soon as the teeth start erupting in the mouth, start early cleanings by wrapping a clean gauze pad over your finger tip and wiping the teeth clean with it. A dry gauze pad will work well in place of a toothbrush at this early stage. Do not ignore the front of the tongue as it is a common site for bacteria accumulation. At this stage extra care should be taken to avoid making the baby sleep with a bottle of milk. This causes baby bottle tooth decay, a disease that causes severe decay of lower anterior teeth.
Once several teeth are visible in the tooth (particularly the molars), it’s time for a toothbrush. Baby toothbrush should be a small soft bristle toothbrush with max 3 or less rows of bristles. No toothpaste is needed at this stage. Just luke warm water. The toothbrush should be projected as a toy allowing the baby to take an active part in the process. Begin with just once a day and gradually increase the frequency. As the baby matures, a small amount of tooth paste (no larger than a pea) can be added. Additionally fluoride toothpaste can also be used on advice with a dentist.
Help the child develop the habit of rinsing and spit. Make the baby drink water after brushing his teeth if he is unable to sip and spit. This will assist with diluting any paste that has been swallowed, which is particularly important if using a paste that contains fluoride. The entire brushing routine should be projected as a game. Purchase a toothbrush with your child’s favorite character. The parent should brush his/her teeth at the same time and encourage the child to follow the same motion. The child should be rewarded for his efforts after brushing with whatever the child likes most.
Do not forget to schedule an appointment with the dentist as soon as you find any abnormality. Otherwise get the child examined at 1 year of age.