Why Taking Care of Milk Teeth Is Crucial

Although babies’ teeth aren’t visible at birth, they’re there – already formed under the gums, waiting until around six months of age to start coming in. These milk teeth, or “baby teeth,” along with the gums and tongue, are vitally important for eating and speaking. In addition, milk teeth hold space for permanent teeth, which begin coming in at five to six years. And cleaning babies’ teeth early on helps acclimate them to using toothbrushes and helps them form good habits.

At around three months of age, before the first tooth ever comes in, it’s time to start cleaning your baby’s gums and tongue. Dampen a bit of gauze or a wash cloth with water only – no toothpaste – and wrap it around your finger. Use a gentle circular motion to remove food debris, and repeat this after each feeding.

When your baby is six to 12 months old, he or she may have several teeth. When you see the first one, it’s time to start using a soft-bristled baby toothbrush. You should still not use toothpaste, but continue using a circular motion with the toothbrush gently cleaning the teeth, gums, and tongue. Try to make brushing fun so your baby will look forward to it.

Once your baby or toddler has teeth, be conscious of how much time sugary substances are staying in contact with the teeth. Do not dip pacifiers in honey or anything else sugary; do not put your baby to bed with milk, juice, or soda, as all of these contain sugars that can cause tooth decay.

From 12 to 24 months, your child should be allowed to “play” or “pretend” with his or her own toothbrush alongside you as you brush. Toddlers often enjoy imitating what they see you do. Do have someone help your toddler brush to ensure it’s getting done properly – this could be you, an older sibling or another caretaker. You can begin using toothpaste now, but use only a tiny smear on the brush.

As your toddler grows into a preschooler, continue making sure he or she brushes twice a day, most importantly at bedtime. Make sure he or she spits out the toothpaste and rinses his or her mouth with plain water. Older toddlers and preschoolers will probably want to “do it themselves,” and that’s fine – as long as you re-brush when they are done. Children usually need supervision while brushing until age six or seven.

Taking care of milk teeth is an important job and one that begins as soon as the first tooth pokes through and doesn’t end until the last baby tooth falls out around age 12. These teeth are important for chewing and digesting properly, speech, and a healthy self-image, so take care of them meticulously just as if they were permanent.

When it comes times for your child’s first dental visit, be sure to give our team at Children’s Dental World a call!