Dental advice from teething, breast and bottle feeding through to the use of dummies and finding out when you should take your baby to the dentist, is provided below.
Babies develop teeth while they are still in the womb. Newborns have a full set of 20 baby teeth hidden in their gums. Teething usually occurs between the ages of 6 months and 3 years and some babies/infants may feel discomfort as new teeth emerge. Children usually have their full set of 20 primary teeth (milk teeth, baby teeth or deciduous teeth) by the age of 3 years.
Possible signs of teething include:
- restlessness during the day and sleeplessness at night
- increased dribbling
- rise in temperature
- red and swollen gums which feel hard and pointed when pressed
- rubbing gums together in a grinding motion
- being fussy or choosy with food
- placing objects or fingers in mouth.
For temporary relief, give your child something to bite on such as a teething ring. These could be stored in the fridge to keep them cool.
Please remember - Seek medical or oral health advice if symptoms continue. Signs of illness should not be automatically assumed to be the result of teething. See your health professional if your baby or toddler has a temperature or diarrhoea.
Cleaning your baby's teeth
Start as soon as the first tooth appears. Wipe the front and back of each tooth twice a day (or after each feed), using a finger wrapped in a clean damp face washer or gauze.
- Introduce a soft children’s toothbrush at 12 months (earlier if tolerated by the infant).
- Only use water to brush your infant's teeth in the morning and before bed, until 18 months of age.
- Use a smear of fluoride toothpaste from 18 months to 6 years of age.
- Encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing, do not rinse.
Find out more about cleaning your baby's teeth on the Raising Children Network website
Thumb and finger sucking
Sucking on thumbs and fingers is a natural behaviour in babies and young children. Most children grow out of finger sucking between 2 and 4 years of age. The effects of finger and thumb sucking are usually reversible up until the age of 6 or 7 because children still have their primary teeth (baby teeth).
If your child continues to thumb or finger suck beyond the age of 6 or seven, it may start to cause dental problems.
Use of dummies (pacifiers, comforters)
- Do not put jam, honey, condensed milk or other sweet substances (eg. glycerine) on your baby’s dummy as this can cause serious tooth decay.
- Sucking your child’s dummy before giving it to your child can increase the risk of tooth decay by transferring bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s.
- Do not allow your baby to use dummies shared with other children or picked up off the floor.
- Dummies should be discarded when child is 12 months old.
Overuse or incorrect use (e.g. beyond school age) of a dummy may lead to mouth and dental problems such as:
- Incorrect positioning of teeth – teeth may be pushed forward so that the bottom and top teeth at the front don’t meet properly.
- Mouth breathing – your child may tend to breathe through their mouth rather than their nose. This is often linked to long-term dribbling.
- Speech and language problems – your child may not use the full range of tongue movements that are necessary for making all the speech sounds and may have fewer opportunities to use sounds to communicate.
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