The first tooth coming through is certainly a memorable and exciting event. Mum and dad make up their minds for this moment when a slight swelling will form on their baby’s gum. However, parents do not always know that their baby’s teeth started their development during the fetal stage: in fact, from the 3rd month of pregnancy, the first so-called “tooth buds”, i.e. the structures from which teeth then develop, are formed. Teething will be complete at around two and a half years of age. That is why proper hygiene of mouth and gums should never be underestimated and should start from the first months of baby’s life, so even before the teeth start coming through. Furthermore, the different stages of teething require specific care and attention to baby’s needs:
During this period, it is a good idea for the mother to use a damp piece of gauze to thoroughly clean their baby’s gums after each feed, since baby is a few days old. In fact, micro-organisms that could become the causes of tooth decay might inevitably proliferate in the mouth.
Furthermore, do not underestimate the fact that, at this age, a baby becomes aware of objects mainly through the mouth and as soon as the baby is able to hold things and coordinate movements, he will try to explore the objects that surround him by putting them in their mouths. In this situation, mums can help their babies by giving them hygienic, lightweight, and soft objects.
The preparation stage for tooth eruption, which usually occurs since the child is 4 months old, is characterized by small but annoying problems such as swollen gums, excessive salivation, disturbed sleep and irritability. Babies feel an increasing need to bite and feel relief thanks to teethers, possibly chilled in the fridge, which soothe painful gums. But that’s not all: paediatricians and hygienists recommend constant attention to oral hygiene. Parents can also use specific gels applied using a finger toothbrush.
At around 6 months of age, sometimes before, the first milk teeth come through. These are the so called deciduous teeth and they play an important role because they prepare the space in the mouth for the permanent teeth, as well as they enable the baby to chew and swallow food correctly (especially now that their food includes semi-solids and then solids) and also help with language learning. However, the baby still needs to chew and at the same time is always looking for more stimuli from the surrounding environment. A teether that also provides tactile and audible interaction, therefore, distracts from the discomfort of teething.
In addition, at this age, the baby starts to become familiar with the toothbrush. Brushing, however, should be done by the parent who will clean from the gum to the tooth to remove plaque after each meal, presenting oral hygiene as a fun game. The first toothpaste will have pleasant flavors, for example fruit, but should not contain fluoride until the baby is 3 years old. According to pediatricians and dentists, systemic administration of fluoride in the form of drops or tablets is preferable. Therefore, a fluoride toothpaste could be accidentally swallowed by the child, with the consequent risk of an overdose.
From the first year of the baby’s life, teething progresses rapidly. Consequently, oral hygiene is increasingly important. In this period, it is still parents who should take care of their baby’s dental hygiene, although the baby can start learning to use a toothbrush on their own, “playing” with mum and/or dad. At this time, the periodic supervision of a paediatrician would also be useful, as they could evaluate whether to send the child to the dentist.
- Clean your baby’s gums regularly, even before milk teeth come through;
- Brush your baby’s teeth several times a day;
- Under the age of 3 years old use toothpaste without fluoride;
- Limit the use of sweet substances, especially at night or when it is not possible to clean the baby’s teeth;
- Do not dip the soother in sugar or honey;
- Check the health of the mouth and teeth regularly.
- Mum and dad need to give a good example, cleaning their teeth regularly and encouraging their baby to imitate them.
The Chicco Observatory thanks Professor Luca Levrini, Orthodontist, – University of Insubria (Varese, Italy) – for the information