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"Brush twice a day" is an advice handed down to people for generations in a bid to maintain good oral hygiene. But how many know that cleaning your baby’s mouth even before teething is equally important as after?

There are many dental conditions that can be prevented if a baby’s oral hygiene is taken care of since the beginning.

Much like adults, infants also need oral care in order to prevent any dental deformities in the future. Some parents believe that a baby doesn’t require oral cleaning before their teeth erupt. But the truth is, the sugary milk that is fed to the babies leads to dental cavities in kids called baby bottle tooth decay.

Baby bottle tooth decay, also known as nursing bottle caries, is a form of tooth decay seen in children who sleep with a feeding bottle (filled with juices, milk or formula) in their mouth. 

This type of tooth decay is seen in babies as young as one or two years of age. The decay is mostly seen in the upper front teeth but in severe cases, it can also spread to the lower teeth.

Initially, the cavity appears like chalky white spots on the surface of the teeth but in severe cases, you may notice brown decaying areas on the teeth as well.

If not treated, these cavities can extend up to the roots of the teeth, thus hampering the development of permanent teeth.

  1. How to clean your baby’s mouth
  2. Preventing dental problems in babies
  3. When do milk teeth develop in babies?
  4. Things to be kept in mind when your baby is teething
  5. Doctors for How to clean your baby's mouth

Do not give your baby a feeding bottle during naptime; since the milk in the bottle is full of sugar, it stays in the mouth of the baby for a long time. This sugar gives rise to cariogenic bacteria (the bacteria that cause cavities in teeth). 

For cleaning your baby’s mouth, all you need is a gauze pad.

Once fed, damp the gauze pad, wrap it around your index finger and wipe your child’s gums, cheeks and roof of the mouth (palate). 

You can also clean the surface of the baby’s tongue with the gauze. Do not soak the gauze in any material like glycerine or mouthwash.

There are a few things that can help prevent future dental problems in your baby:

  • Once the child attains the age of six months, stop feeding them at night. At this point, the teeth start erupting and solid food is introduced to them. Apart from tooth decay, prolonged bottle-feeding can also cause facial deformities in a growing child, like a long narrow face with top front teeth slanting out.
  • If you want to bottle feed a fussy baby, rather than putting fruit juices, formula or milk, you should put plain water.  
  • If you are bottle-feeding your child at bedtime, use gauze to clean their mouth before laying the baby down. 
  • Do not dip your baby’s pacifier in sugary substances like honey and sugar.
  • Introduce your child to sippy cups after you start weaning. Do not give sippy cups full of fruit juices, formula or milk at bedtime.

Milk teeth, also known as the primary or deciduous teeth, begin to appear in a baby's mouth as soon as the age of six. Firstly, the lower front teeth start developing followed by the upper front teeth and so on. Within two years, all 20 teeth appear in the mouth of a baby. 

Unlike adults, children have only 20 teeth (called milk teeth) which shed over time to make way for the permanent set of 28/32 teeth. Teeth in babies develop in the following sequence:

  • 6-8 months of age: 2 lower front teeth
  • 8-10 months of age: 2 upper front teeth
  • 9-11 months of age: 2 upper lateral teeth (adjacent to the front teeth, one on each side)
  • 10-12 months of age: 2 lower lateral teeth
  • 13-15 months of age: 2 upper molars (the grinding teeth one on each left and right side)
  • 14-16 months of age: 2 lower molars
  • 16-18 months of age: 2 upper canines (sharp teeth adjacent to the lateral tooth, one on each side)
  • 17-19 months of age: 2 lower canines
  • 23-25 months of age: 2 lower second molars (adjacent to the first molar one on each side)
  • 25-27 months of age: 2 upper second molars 

Parents must understand that the progress and development of each child cannot be similar. There are different milestones of development in a child, like blabbering, sitting, walking, the eruption of teeth, and many more. Some kids may achieve these milestones earlier than others. So, if your child’s teeth do not start emerging at six months, do not panic.

Wait for another two months and if still no sign of tooth development is seen, take your child to a dentist. 

There is a myth which every parent believes that babies will suffer from diarrhea when they start teething, which is untrue. Because teething babies tend to chew onto anything that's in front of them, it makes them prone to bacterial infections, which leads to gastrointestinal disturbances including diarrhoea. Here are a few tips for parents with teething babies:

  • When a baby is teething, he/she may get irritated due to continuous itching and pain in the gums. To help relieve the itching, you can gently rub the baby’s gums with a clean finger.
  • You can give some hard silicone chew toys like teeth ring to the baby to bite on. Make sure that the toy is big enough that it cannot be swallowed by the baby. Cool the toy in a refrigerator before giving it to the baby as it would help in soothing the irritating gums.
  • If not chew toys, you can also use pacifiers, frozen bananas or carrots, or even a damp washcloth. 
  • Make sure you disinfect the toys and objects every day to prevent gastrointestinal disturbances. You can disinfect the silicone chew toys by boiling them in water for at least 10 minutes.
  • During teething, the child will drool a lot. Clean the drool off the baby’s face with a soft face towel to prevent rashes.

Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear. Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste for your baby to protect their teeth from cavities.

Dr. Radhika Joshi

Dr. Radhika Joshi

Dentistry
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Mohammed Mahdi Hassan

Dr. Mohammed Mahdi Hassan

Dentistry
1 Years of Experience

Dr. Prachi Patkar

Dr. Prachi Patkar

Dentistry
4 Years of Experience

Dr. Apurv Mehrotra

Dr. Apurv Mehrotra

Dentistry
5 Years of Experience

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