When should I start cleaning my baby’s mouth?
Maintaining infant oral hygiene is very important because it maintains oral health, clears milk and food residues and avoids buildup of bacteria. It helps the baby have healthy gums and teeth. Baby teeth (also called milk teeth) hold the spaces open for permanent teeth to come in. Although most babies do not start developing teeth until they are six months old, it is recommended to begin cleaning the baby’s mouth as a newborn, even before the teeth appear. Teeth brushing may begin after the teeth start appearing. It is also recommended to take the baby to the dentist before the first birthday to ensure appropriate dental health.
How do I clean my baby’s mouth?
The baby’s mouth may be cleaned twice a day. The following steps can be followed while cleaning the baby’s mouth
- You should make the baby lie down in your or a caregiver’s lap and you should hold the baby’s head close to your chest so that you can clearly visualize their mouth.
- You may use a damp washcloth/soft towel to gently rub the baby’s upper and lower gums.
- Teeth brushing may begin after the teeth start appearing, which is usually after six months of age. You may use a soft-bristle, infant-sized toothbrush that has been approved by a dentist to gently brush the baby’s teeth with a very small amount of toothpaste.
- Cleaning the baby’s tongue can be a challenge because they seldom cooperate. You may try distracting the baby with interesting activities and toys to be able to clean their tongue. You may gently rub a soft cloth dipped in lukewarm water over the baby’s tongue to clean it.
How do I care for my child’s teeth?
Child’s teeth start erupting after six months of age. The following measures can help ensure the baby has healthy teeth
- Fluoride may be added to the child’s diet at six months of age: Fluoride is a mineral that hardens the tooth enamel, prevents tooth decay and is essential for healthy teeth. Fluoride is often added to tap water in many countries. Fluoride supplements may be started after consulting the dentist.
- Managing discomfort due to eruption of teeth: The child may have pain and discomfort of the gums during eruption of teeth. Massaging sore gums and offering something cold such as frozen apple slices or paracetamol can occasionally help soothe your baby's teething pain. Not all babies experience discomfort. Signs of discomfort include swelling and tenderness around the area of eruption and drooling.
- Teeth brushing with fluoride toothpaste: Once the child has a tooth, you can start brushing it twice a day with a pinch of toothpaste. A pea-sized portion of the paste is sufficient.
It is advised to follow-up with the pediatrician periodically to ensure oral health and overall health. It is also recommended that the child be examined by a dentist, preferably a pediatric dentist, before the age of one for teeth cleaning to ensure good oral health.
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