Most people have two sets of teeth during their life: a set of primary or “baby teeth” and the permanent or “adult teeth”. A baby’s first tooth typically appears around 6-10 months of age. Even though for most people, baby teeth would eventually be replaced later on, the last of the primary teeth is to serve their function until your child becomes 10 – 12 years old. It is important that your child’s baby teeth are well-taken care of so that they can fulfil their function well.

Brushing Baby's Teeth

Brushing Baby’s Teeth

Why do I need to care for my child’s baby teeth when it’s going to fall off?

Naturally, baby teeth are needed for proper chewing and are important in the development of speech and normal oromuscular function. However, the most important role of the baby teeth is actually preserving space for our adult teeth until they can grow up from underneath the gums.

If a baby tooth is removed early because of cavities, some of the space needed for our adult teeth in the jaw is lost and this can lead to crowding of teeth when the rest of the adult teeth emerge later on. This can sometimes delay the eruption of the adult tooth that is growing beneath. In addition to the important functions of baby teeth as listed above, the health of your child’s primary teeth can affect the eruption of the developing adult tooth.

Beware of cavities

A cavity essentially is caused largely by the bacteria living in the dental plaque on your child’s teeth. As the cavity progresses deeper to the vital tissues of the infected baby tooth, your child may experience a toothache or a dental abscess due to an infection of the vital tissues of the tooth. The episode of the toothache or dental abscess is not only a painful experience for your child, but it may also affect the eruption of the underlying adult tooth.

See also: Common questions parents ask about tooth decay

How can I brush my baby’s teeth?

There are many cleaning aids to assist you in caring for your baby’s teeth. You may find it easier to clean your baby’s teeth using a piece of clean gauze or muslin while your baby is young. Simply wrap it around your finger, put a tiny smear of toothpaste on it, and rub it around your baby’s teeth. Or you may purchase a silicon baby toothbrush where you can wear on your index finger like a finger glove. Both tools can achieve the goal of keeping your baby’s first teeth clean and healthy.

Start introducing toothbrushes with soft nylon bristles and a small head

You can do so when your baby grows older and starts having more teeth. This allows you to reach all parts of your baby’s mouth easily and comfortably as each new tooth emerges. Look at the packaging to see what age range the brush is designed for.

Replace your baby’s toothbrush regularly

As soon as the bristles start to spread out or fray, it’s time to get a new one. During tooth-brushing, you may use a smear of toothpaste on the bristles of the brush. Encourage your baby to spit after a tooth clean.

Brush twice a day

Get into the habit of brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day. Do it once in the morning, at a time that fits in with your usual routine. The second clean should be before bed, after your baby’s had his last drink.

Brushing tips

You may find that sitting your baby on your lap, facing away from you, helps you reach his teeth more easily. This position will work well when your baby is a toddler too. Brush with small, gentle circular movements, concentrating on the area where the teeth and gums meet. Remember to brush gently as your baby’s gums will feel tender during the teething stage.

As soon as the first tooth emerges

Remember to take your child on their first dental visit as soon as their first tooth emerges from the gums. You may also take your baby along to your own dental appointments prior to their own. That way he’ll get to know the sights, sounds, smells and routine of your dental surgery.

This article is contributed by Dr Stephanie Yap, Dental Surgeon, The Dental Studio

Practice address:
The Dental Studio (A subsidiary of Singapore Medical Group)
Paragon 290 Orchard Road #13-01 to 06
Singapore 238859
Tel: (65) 6836 0050

This was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine