The first baby tooth sprouts around 6 months of age. By 3 years old, a complete set of 20 milk teeth will have appeared. However, there are exceptions where some babies are born with a tooth or teeth called natal teeth. Teeth which develop within one month after birth are known as neonatal teeth. In some babies, the milk teeth do not appear until as late as 18 months.
Your baby will salivate or drool more. He may be more irritable and tends to put things in his mouth, especially when the back teeth are cutting through. Giving your baby teething rings as well as chewing rusks may help. Teething balms may be used to relieve gum irritation but use them sparingly as these can contain sugar which may promote tooth decay. Your paediatrician may prescribe teething gel as well.
When baby has his front teeth, you can clean them after every feed with a clean damp towel wrapped around your finger. You can start using a small toothbrush when his back teeth appear.
If you are breastfeeding, never let your baby sleep with you and suckle on demand. Never let your child fall asleep with a bottle of milk or sweetened liquid in his mouth. Both practices promote an aggressive form of decay called nursing bottle caries. Try to wean your baby off the night feed at the 5th or 6th month. If he is fretful in the middle of the night, give him plain water. Your baby should not be using a milk bottle after he is 1 year old. You should train him to drink from a cup. There are many training cups available in the market.
In the first few months, a baby’s main nutrition comes from milk and liquids. Do not let your baby get used to liquids with a lot of sugar in it, like honey, fruit juices or glucose water. Avoid adding sugar to your baby’s milk or food. Read labels on baby food to know exactly what you are giving your baby.
The first year of life is regarded as an oral phase. Babies like to put things in their mouths and get pleasure from sucking. Some parents may feel tempted to introduce a pacifier especially if their babies are fretful. Be aware that prolonged pacifier use and thumb sucking cause teeth to be pushed out of their normal positions. The operative word here is prolonged. If you must use a pacifier, try purchasing an orthodontic one. This is less damaging to the teeth. Limit use of the pacifier.
Before the age of 2, children have not mastered the skill of spitting and tend to swallow toothpaste. Therefore, toothpaste is not recommended until the child is 2 years old and above. Even then, use a pea-sized amount of children’s toothpaste, which has a lower concentration of fluoride.
A mother’s diet will have to be severely deficient in calcium in order for milk teeth, which are developing in uterus, to be affected. Other factors like nursing bottle caries are usually responsible for the condition described above.
These are usually prescribed in countries where water is not fluoridated. Singapore has fluoridated potable water so this not necessary.
Paediatric dentists recommend the first visit at 6 months of age or shortly after the first tooth has sprouted. This will allow the dentist to evaluate the baby’s teeth, and provide counselling on the baby’s diet and dental hygiene instruction. Read more on why it is important to care for baby teeth shared by our dental doctors from The Dental Studio.
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