The reason I call it “oral health” is because it’s not just about the teeth. It’s also about the soft tissues which include the gums, tongue, lips, cheeks, floor of the mouth, and the hard & soft palates. All of these components should all be checked at your baby’s first appointment to make sure that everything looks healthy and within normal limits.
Most dental offices will give you an age appropriate brush for your infant and some tips on keeping their mouth healthy. Here are a few tips I share with parents:
-Use a damp cloth to wipe baby’s gums daily. Laying baby in your lap and lifting their lips out of the way is most thorough.
-All babies have a natural tendency to suck on things. Be aware that prolonged use of thumb/finger sucking and/or soother use can lead to changes in shape of the mouth and how the teeth occlude, or close together. Eliminating any sucking habits between age 2-5 is desirable.
- Introducing a sippy cup or cup by age 1 and allow the child to drink water or milk at mealtimes only. Juice is high in sugar and can easily cause decay.
- Never send baby to bed with a bottle. Decay can occur if milk sits in the baby’s mouth.
-Once baby has teeth, brush them gently with water only. Once they’re older you may want to consider toothpaste but NO FLUORIDATED TOOTHPASTE until your child can spit it out (around age 4 or 5)!
Babies tend to chew on things and salivate more heavily around the time when they get a new tooth. The function of the saliva is to soften the gums for the tooth to erupt. Chewing on toys or their fingers is also common and makes their gums feel better. It is NOT normal for babies to have a fever when their teeth are coming in. Please consult your baby’s doctor if he/she has a fever.
Occasionally a baby may have “thrush”. This typically appears as a white coating in their mouth that cannot be wiped off (2, 3). It likely won’t affect the baby much but on occasion it can cause him/her discomfort. Thrush is an overgrowth of a fungus, Candida albicans, which is part of the body’s normal flora. In particular instances, an overgrowth can occur if the balance between the healthy bacteria is upset, allowing the fungus to take over. Consult your child’s doctor if this occurs. Probiotics and an anti-fungal solution may be recommended.
I hope you have found this information helpful. Please feel free to email me anytime if you have more questions at Nicole@fullcirclebirthcollective.com. More information about toddlers and oral health coming soon!
- Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist, 10th Edition by Ester M. Wilkins (2009).
- Managing Patients With Oral Candidiasis, Samson Ng, JCDA (2013).
- Kidshealth.org, Yamini Durani, (2015).
- Canadian Dental Association, www.cda-adc.ca/en/, (2016).
Nicole Sailes is a certified Hypnobabies Instructor with Full Circle Birth Collective. Learn more about Nicole here.