Infant Dental Care

Advice for New Mommies and Daddies

By Dr. Angela Austin

As a pediatric dentist, I have the unique advantage of motivating and encouraging parents to take an active role in preventing dental disease, so problems don’t occur.

As soon as a baby is born, parents can be active in avoiding dental diseases and fostering good dental health for their child. Most people don’t even realize we can start the prevention process before our newborn’s teeth have erupted.

During the last three months of pregnancy the 20 baby teeth are almost completely formed in the bone. At birth there can be as many as 12 adult teeth starting their development.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises that we start cleaning a baby’s mouth even before the teeth start coming in. Before teeth come in, use a clean damp washcloth and gently wipe the child’s gums. This will help reduce the decay-causing bacteria that form in the mouth, and start the healthy habit of daily routine dental care.

It is also recommended that your child see a pediatric dentist by 12 months of age. This appointment is for evaluation, guidance and education. At this visit a complete examination is performed and recommendations are given for home dental care, oral habits, diet choices and the correct use of toothpaste and fluoride. Many dental diseases can be avoided or treated more gently if found early.

Baby Teething Teething normally occurs from about six months to 36 months of age. Once a baby’s first tooth comes in, the other teeth follow in small groups until all 20 baby teeth are in. During the teething process, many children become irritable, drool a lot, suck on their toys, blankets, or fingers, and sometimes lose their appetite. While some discomfort is normal, teething does not cause fever, ear tugging, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms. If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms during teething, call your pediatrician. You can ease teething discomfort by offering your baby cool teething toys, or frequent cool drinks of water.

Baby Teeth

After the Teeth Come in…

Here are my top 5 pointers on taking care of those new teeth and preventing dental problems:

  1. Visit a pediatric dentist by 12 months of age.
  2. Do not allow sweetened liquids to bathe teeth for prolonged periods of time. The sugars in milk (human or cow), formula, fruit juices, or other sweetened liquids can contribute considerably to dental decay, so it is important to minimize the amount of time the bottle or sippy cup is in the mouth. Also, when sleeping, we rarely swallow; therefore, if a child falls asleep with sweet liquid in their mouth the danger of dental decay is much greater.
  3. Don’t put your baby in bed with a bottle/sippy cup filled with formula, milk or juice. If a bottle is needed to help your baby sleep, fill it with water. Replace the bedtime bottle with a special blanket, stuffed animal, or special bedtime routine, like singing a song, listening to a tape, or reading a 
  4. Did you know dental decay is transmissible (“contagious”)? If a parent or a caregiver has active dental decay (cavities) please try to avoid kissing the child’s mouth or sharing utensils. The decay-causing bacteria can be transferred to the baby, and start the process of making your child more prone to dental decay due to the bacteria that has been transferred to their mouth. Please take care of your dental problems.
  5. Pacifiers aren’t evil! Of course, ideally, we’d rather not have your child having these types of habits, but this type of sucking is completely normal for babies and young children. It provides security. In fact, babies begin to suck on their fingers or thumbs even before they are born. Taking the pacifier away too early may cause your child to replace the sucking habit with their thumb, which is a much harder habit to break. For all habits, we just would like to motivate our kids to cease the sucking habit by the time their permanent teeth come in (between 5-7 years old).

That’s it! Let’s get our children off to a great start and encourage them to have amazing smiles for life.

Dr. AngelA Austin is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist located in Alexandria, VA. She speciali
6303 Little River Turnpike,Suite 345,zes in treating patients aged 1-21. She is also specially trained to treat special needs patients as well as patients with high dental anxiety. She is the owner of Alexandria Children’s Dentistry located at:

Alexandria, VA 22312.
Phone: 703-942-8404

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