Although we’re not dentists, we take care of little ones with little mouths. Therefore, there are a lot of questions directed our way about the best way to care for young teeth. Over time, there’s been growing recognition of how dental problems can contribute to decreased overall health status and quality of life. Here are some answers to questions we are often asked about teeth and suggestions for supporting a healthy mouth.
- When will my baby’s teeth come in? Like many milestones in infants and toddlers, there is a wide range of time during which you may see teeth emerging. Often this starts around 6 months, but it can happen any time between 4-12 months (and sometimes even later.) Delayed tooth eruption – no teeth by age 18 months – should be evaluated by a dentist. Drooling and chewing, the signs we associate with teething, can go on for several months before any teeth actually appear.
- What can I do to help with teeth pain? Pain can be relieved with teething toys, cool objects, and gum massage. Be cautious of any teething objects that could present choking and suffocation hazards like beaded jewelry. We recommend not using teething tablets or gels because of safety concerns associated with these products. If you think your baby might need medication for pain, we can help make sure you are giving the right medication and the right dose and rule out other conditions.
- How should I clean my child’s teeth? Getting in a cleaning routine is something you can start even before you see teeth. Cleaning gums with a washcloth keeps mouths clean and gets babies familiar with the process. As soon as you start to see teeth, it’s time to brush twice each day. There are many toothbrush options available for small teeth. Using toothpaste with fluoride is recommended. However, we use a very small amount for kids less than 3 years of age – a smear the size of a rice grain is all you need. After 3, when kids are typically able to spit toothpaste out, you can use the size of a pea. Even beyond the toddler years, kids will need help brushing for a while. Many kids won’t have the fine motor skills necessary to brush teeth effectively until age 8 or even older. That being said, it’s a good idea to let them practice before or after you brush so they can develop these skills.
- When should my child see a dentist? The American Dental Association recommends seeing a dentist as soon as teeth start appearing or by the age of 12 months. Practically speaking, some families tell us that their dentists don’t see children that young. If that’s the case, set a goal of starting by age 2-3 years. You can also ask for our list of pediatric dentists if you need help finding a dentist.