Baby teeth help your little one chew, speak and smile, so it’s really important to look after them. They also hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums. We answer your most pressing baby teeth care questions.
How do I ensure that my newborn will have healthy teeth and gums?
Breastfeeding will make your newborn strong. The action of sucking and swallowing is very important for your baby as it helps promote the growth of the jaw and face bones. ‘Milk teeth’, or the primary dentition, start erupting from 6-8 months after birth. By the time your baby is three years old, all her milk teeth should have erupted. Expect a total of 20 teeth in the upper and lower jaw. Looking after these teeth is crucial for the preparation of her adult teeth.
How do I keep my baby’s gums and emerging teeth clean? Do I have to brush every day?
As soon as the first tooth appears, start brushing with a small amount of baby approved toothpaste, using either a cloth around your finger or a very small toothbrush. Brushing once a day is sufficient for the first two
years, thereafter brushing should be done in the morning and at night.
My baby is up all night from teething pain and often has a fever. When do I need to take him to the doctor?
Teething isn’t considered to be a ‘serious’ problem, and all babies will experience teething to some extent. There are certain symptoms associated with teething like loss of sleep, restlessness, fever, diarrhea and skin rashes. If any of these symptoms become excessive and don’t subside, there could be other causes so it’s important to visit the doctor.
My baby loves sucking and chewing on biltong when she’s teething. Is it okay to give her food to relieve the pain or should I replace biltong with teething rings?
Babies will try to put anything in their mouths to ease the teething pain, so it’s always best to use approved teething products. Store them in the fridge (never use the freezer) and the cold will help to further relieve the pain.
What type of toothpaste should I buy for my baby?
All major toothpaste manufacturers offer toothpastes that are suitable for babies. Colgate, for example, makes toothpaste for babies that’s specified for 0-2 year olds. These toothpastes contains no fluoride at all so they are safe if your baby swallows them. From age two and up, toothpaste will include some fluoride but in a low dosage. Make sure to check the product label and ensure the toothpaste is suitable for babies.
My child loves juice and sweet things. Are certain foods more likely to cause tooth decay?
The general principle is that any food or drink containing sugar places your toddler at risk of developing tooth decay. The more natural the food, for example fruit and raw food over sweetened juices, the more hard chewing has to be done, which in return helps to clean the teeth. A well balanced diet is essential and should include plenty
of cereal and wholewheat products, fruit and vegetables (preferably raw or quickly blanched), yoghurt, milk and cheese, plus a little meat and fish on a regular basis. Limit saturated fats and oil (typically found in chocolate, sweets, cakes and biscuits).Only allow treats like these once a day and this should be followed by brushing your tot’s teeth straight away. Encourage this routine so it becomes a habit.
How soon do I need to start flossing between my toddler’s teeth?
Dental floss isn’t important at this young age, however, an introduction to floss and setting the example by flossing your own teeth in front of your child is very important. Your child will mimic your actions so start teaching them good oral hygiene practices early.
My toddler is scared to visit the dentist. How do I encourage her and how often do I need to bring her?
If you as a parent don’t enjoy visiting the dentist, your toddler will more than likely feel the same way. Be encouraging and try to maintain a positive outlook about dentist visits. Start seeing your dentist from the time your toddler develops all her baby teeth, around 2–3 years old. These visits will get your child used to the dental environment. Thereafter, an annual visit should be sufficient until your little one is five years old. At this stage visiting the dentist and oral hygienist should be done every six months.
My four-year-old knocked her front tooth out. What now?
Don’t panic! At the age of four, your child only has her primary dentition so this isn’t an adult tooth. If in doubt, bring her to the dentist to get an X-ray and check that no other teeth are chipped or damaged.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.