The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends beginning to wipe your child’s gums with a clean, moistened washcloth or gauze several days after birth. This has the two-fold benefit of helping to prevent a buildup of plaque in the mouth that may harm erupting teeth, and it gets your baby used to having his or her mouth cleaned.
Primary teeth, or “baby teeth” will begin to get erupt between 6 and 12 months of age, and your child will continue to have new baby teeth come in until about 2 ½ years old, typically. It’s important to care for these teeth as soon as they come in, brushing twice a day with no more than a smear the size of a grain of rice of fluoride toothpaste — here is a list of ADA Accepted toothbrushes and toothpastes for kids.
As teeth begin to erupt your baby may experience symptoms of discomfort, including fussiness, increased drooling, difficulty sleeping, and loss of appetite (parents may experience some of those symptoms right along with your babies!)
Here are some easy strategies to help relieve some of your baby’s discomfort:
Do not use numbing gels or teething tablets for your baby, per FDA recommendations. Most numbing gels, even ones labeled as “baby formulations”, contain benzocaine, a drug that has been linked to a rare but serious and sometimes fatal condition known as methemoglobinemia. Only use topical numbing agents under the direction and supervision of a licensed health professional. The FDA also warns against the use of homeopathic teething tablets, as they can contain unpredictable levels of belladonna, a substance that can cause “seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating or agitation”.
It is recommended by the ADA that children see the dentist as soon as they get their first tooth or by their first birthday (whichever comes first). This may seem like overkill, but it’s not, and here’s why: As soon as teeth are present in the mouth they can get cavities. It’s important to note that tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic illness in children in this country. By age 5 about 60% of children will have at least one cavity.