Good oral care should start from infancy, how well you take care of your little ones teeth in their early childhood will build the foundation for good oral hygiene in their adult life.
Knowledge is key so, as your local Forest Lake Dentist, we’ve written a guide to help you better understand all things teeth. Read along to learn more about tooth development, teething and oral hygiene for babies and toddlers.
Of course, every child is different so if you’re unsure about your babies symptoms or have urgent concerns please get in touch so one of our friendly dentists can help. We offer several Child Dental Benefits and pride ourselves on being an excellent Forest Lake Children’s Dentist.
No two babies will be exactly the same but the average age that you can expect teeth to start coming through is 9 months. Early erupting is when teeth come through before 6 months and while rather uncommon, some babies can even be born with one or multiple erupted teeth. On the other end of the scale, some children might not see their first tooth until they are 12 months old or longer.
While the difference of development times in children can widely vary, it’s good to remember anytime within the above-mentioned range is perfectly normal. If your child passes the 12-month mark and there is still no sign of teeth coming through you might consider booking in to see a dentist for peace of mind, it’s also a great idea to get kids used to the dentist from an early age! Most children will have all 20 of their primary teeth, more commonly known as baby teeth, by the time they’re 3.
With teeth erupting over the span of roughly 3 years it can be a painful experience, for baby and parent alike. Teething symptoms can be quick or drawn out, each child will have a different experience. So how do you know if your baby is teething?
Symptoms that are NOT related with teething:
- Fever (38 C and over)
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms seek advice from your GP.
Symptoms that commonly indicate teething:
- Drooling/excess saliva
- Excessive chewing
- Slight increase in temperature (NOT a fever)
- Tender or sore gums
- Lumps in the gums
To help sooth your little one as their teeth start to come through, try these simple and safe options:
Cold things – Providing safe chilled items for your baby to chew on. Try putting a wet muslin cloth/face flannel in the fridge for a couple of hours or the freezer for 10-15 minutes and let them chew or suck on it. Silicone teething rings/toys can also be chilled and might be a safer option than liquid filled teething toys. For babies 6 months and older you can also try cool water in a slow-flow sippy cup or slightly frozen/chilled bananas and berries.
Massage – Remember to wash your hands first, then use your fingers or knuckles to gently massage the gums. Dipping your fingers in some cool water first might also help relieve some discomfort.
Chewing – Rubber toys aimed at teething can be great for sore gums as well as rusks for babies that are on solids as long as they are supervised as chunks can break off and become a choking hazard. You might find that the texture of a soft bristled children’s toothbrush will offer some distraction, just keep a separate one for brushing their teeth.
Alongside these suggestions, sometimes a baby just needs distraction from the pain and discomfort. Try giving your little one extra cuddles and attention, toys or games that keep them engaged or extra breast/bottle feeding when they’re keen. Remember to keep the skin around their mouth dry if they’re drooling a lot to avoid adding a rash to their list of discomforts and try allowing for an extra nap during the day if their sleep is being disrupted.
Things to avoid when teething:
Teething necklaces/bracelets – Amber beads have been popular over the years for teething though there is no proof that they provide any relief. When sucked or chewed on they can cause damage to the gums and if broken can pose a choking hazard if inhaled/ingested by your baby or another child. The Australian Dental Association warns against the use of them.
Homeopathic teething tablets/medication – Lab analysis done in recent years has shown higher levels than labelled of Belladonna in some homeopathic remedies, an ingredient linked to difficulty breathing and seizures.
Teething gels – Topicals gels aren’t the greatest option with babies often drooling a lot while teething. Excess saliva can also cause little ones to swallow a lot more and ingesting too much of the gel can have serious side effects. Gels with numbing ingredients such as benzocaine or lidocaine are especially concerning as they can numb the babies throat and interfere with their ability to swallow.
If you feel as though your baby is struggling and nothing is helping, see your GP about age appropriate over the counter medication that might help. Ensure you always read the instructions and never go over the recommended dosage.
Caring for baby teeth:
Parents should start brushing teeth as soon as they come through to keep them clean and get kids used to having their teeth brushed. Wet a small, soft bristled toothbrush made for babies and gently brush each tooth. You don’t need to use toothpaste until they are 18 months if you live in a location with fluoridated water. At 18 months you can start using a small amount of toothpaste and should try to teach your little one to spit at the end. Ensure you buy toothpaste specifically for babies as it will have lower fluoride levels and a milder taste than toothpaste for adults.
Aim to get your little one in to see a dentist as soon as their teeth start coming through or at 12 months. The dentist will be able to let you know what to expect as your child grows, give tips for cleaning their teeth, suggestions of tooth-friendly food and drinks as well as keeping an eye on things that might become an issue such as thumb sucking and crowding.
It’s important to get kids used to seeing a dentist while they’re young. The average age of Australian children at their first dentist visit is 4. Unfortunately, by this stage there might already be decay and sometimes this means the first visit to the dentist is for a toothache. When kids come to the dentist for the first time in pain, often they’re scared, and this fear is only aggravated if they need to be numbed with a needle to fix the problem. From a child’s point of view that can be traumatising and it’s fair to assume they won’t want to come back. Getting them in while they’re young and before they’re in pain lessens the chances of tooth issues as they’re being monitored from the beginning. It also gives your dentist the chance to make their visits fun instead of scary. If you can, try to see the same dentist every time to build a sense of familiarity and comfort.
The importance of baby teeth is sometimes overlooked by parents who might think that since they’re going to fall out anyway, they don’t matter. But baby teeth allow children to speak properly and chew food, as well as maintaining space for adult teeth.
Setting the example with your little ones by showing them how to properly take care of their teeth when they’re little can pave the way for an entire lifetime of good oral health.
If you receive a government benefit your child may be eligible for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS). This benefit provides each eligible child with $1,026 of general dental treatment per 2 years. To check your child’s eligibility, you can call Medicare on 132 011, or check your Medicare online account through MyGov.