Baby teeth are important; they are needed to chew food and form sounds when talking. Baby teeth also save space in the mouth for permanent teeth, making it particularly important to take care of them.
Once your baby gets a tooth, good dental care should begin. Clean your baby's teeth once a day with a soft, wet cloth. When your baby reaches 12 months, you can use a small, soft toothbrush with water on it. As your child gets older, a small dab of toothpaste can be used on the toothbrush. Consult your child's dentist regarding the best time for your child to begin using toothpaste.
How to avoid nursing bottle caries
Don't give your baby a bottle in bed to fall asleep. If your baby drinks from a bottle and then falls asleep, milk or juice will stay on the teeth and cause tooth decay; this is called nursing bottle caries. For more information on this, read our page on nursing bottle caries.
What are the symptoms of teething?
The following are the most common symptoms of teething. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- drooling more than usual - drooling may start as early as 3 or 4 months of age, but is not always a sign of teething
- swollen, or puffy area on gum
- fussiness or crankiness
Differentiating between teething and another possible illness
Teething does not cause colds, diarrhea, or high fevers, but it can make a baby uncomfortable. If your baby becomes sick around the same time teeth are coming in, it's important to evaluate the symptoms of that illness independently of the teething. Call your child's physician for advice if your baby is sick.
How can you help your child with the discomforts of teething?
If your baby is cranky because of teething, try giving him hard rubber toys, teething rings or cold teething toys to chew on.
- Don't freeze teething toys or rings as these can hurt your baby's gums.
- You can rub your baby's gum with your finger.
- Teething gels-like Anbesol or Orajel-are not helpful as they are quickly washed off with drooling. Instead, you can soothe your baby's discomfort by placing something cold on his gums, which numbs them slightly.
Ask your baby's physician about pain relieving medications for teething.