If you’ve had a baby, there can be a lot of things to worry about. Although infants usually do not have teeth when they are born, it is still important to provide dental care from the start. We recommend that you bring your baby in for a dental checkup by age one to ensure their gums and teeth are developing properly and detect any abnormalities. Here’s a simple guide to navigating your child’s early dental health.
What we look for
When you bring your baby in for their first check-up, there are a few specific things we look for. These include:
- Epstein pearls: Small, white cysts in the baby’s mouth that are usually harmless and disappear on their own
- Bohn nodules: Small, grayish-white nodules that can occur on the palate and are usually harmless as well
- Inclusion cysts: Small, harmless bumps on the gums
- Natal/Neonatal teeth: Some infants are born with teeth, or their teeth begin to erupt within thirty days of birth. In some cases, these need to be removed.
Your baby’s mouth during infancy
During the first year of life, your baby will likely experience teething, which is when their teeth begin to erupt through the gums. This usually occurs between 3 and 9 months, and will likely cause your child some pain or discomfort. Signs of teething include irritability, loss of appetite, excessive drooling, and restlessness. Some treatments that may help are teething biscuits or teething rings, pain medicine, eating cold foods, or massaging the gums. Talk to your dentist about how to best relieve your baby’s teething pain.
Another normal aspect of an infant’s life is sucking on a pacifier, thumb, or finger. This is not something to be concerned about, as sucking is a natural reflex for babies. These sucking habits are usually gone by around 3 or 4 years old, and if stopped at this age, will likely not affect the jaw or teeth. However, if a prolonged sucking habit continues it can cause:
- misaligned upper and lower jaws
- bottom front teeth to slant inward
- top front teeth to slant out
These bite problems may need to be corrected with orthodontic work in the future.
A common problem that can occur with your baby’s teeth is baby bottle tooth decay. This often occurs when a child is repeatedly put to bed with a bottle, and the sugars in the milk or juice sit on the child’s teeth for a long period of time, eventually causing tooth decay or cavities. This can be prevented by not giving the child a bottle in bed, as well as performing adequate dental care.
How to care for your baby’s mouth
You should begin cleaning your child’s gums soon after birth, even before any teeth have erupted. This will ensure your baby’s mouth is clean as well as get them used to the cleaning process. Here is how to clean your baby’s mouth:
- Lay their head down on a flat surface or in your lap
- Rub a damp washcloth over the upper and lower gums
- After teeth have erupted, switch to using a baby toothbrush and water
- Repeat these steps twice a day, in the morning and evening
Schedule an Appointment
It’s never too early to bring your child to the dentist to ensure that they remain healthy and happy for the years to come. Schedule an appointment with Sprout Kids Dentistry by calling or filling out our online form and we can find the appointment that works best for you.
Dr. Michelle Anderson is a pediatric dentist board certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.