Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

How to Care for Baby’s First Teeth

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published February 22, 2021

Parents do a lot to care for the many needs of their children, and good dental hygiene habits starting at age zero can make a large and lasting difference in a child’s overall health. By following simple best practices in the first year of your child’s life you can set him/her up for a lifetime of health and strong teeth.

Care Before the First Teeth Come In

While it is common to assume that dental hygiene starts with the first tooth, this is not the case. Taking care of your baby’s gums before the first teeth are cut in is an important step in forming a foundation for good dental habits. Beginning at birth, cleaning a baby’s mouth once per day can both prevent the build-up of bacteria left from formula or breastmilk and get your baby accustomed to the sensation of ‘brushing’ or cleaning the mouth. 

To do this, use a piece of clean gauze or a soft cloth. Start by dipping the gauze or cloth in water and wrap it around your pointer finger. Position your baby on your lap and gently rub along the gum line. This wipes away any excess bacteria and has the added benefit of relieving soreness or pain from teething! 

How to Spot Baby’s First Teeth Coming In

After forming a routine habit of cleaning your baby’s gums, you may be more likely to notice when that first tooth is ready to make its appearance. Many parents are familiar with teething in infants, but what does teething actually look like? It can be different for each individual baby, but here are some common signs of teething:

    • Drooling more than Usual It may be time to break out the bibs to save your baby’s outfit. In some cases, the drooling can be so excessive that it leaves a rash on baby’s chin or cheeks.
    • Irritated or Swollen Gums This may be something you notice as you keep up with cleaning your baby’s mouth. Sometimes this may happen in tandem with a low fever.
    • Face Rubbing or Ear Pulling Many babies will resort to rubbing or pulling as a means to try and soothe themselves. Pay attention though, because ear pulling can also be a sign of an ear infection.
    • Fussier than Usual – If your baby is normally content, becoming fussy may be a sign that his teeth are bothering him.

How to Help Your Baby with Teething Discomfort

As with much of the first year of a child’s life, this is a phase and will pass. In the meantime, however, there are a couple things you can do to help your child’s discomfort. In general, soothing a teething baby means comforting the gums and comforting the emotions. Babies will want to be held and cuddled more during these times, but you may also consider trying any of the following:

  • Freeze the wet cloth you use to clean baby’s mouth, it may feel good on her gums.
  • Massage baby’s gums with a clean finger as you cuddle.
  • Give your baby a teething toy to chew on.
  • Wipe any drool away to avoid the development of a rash.
  • Ask your baby’s doctor about pain medication.

Caring for the First Tooth

A baby’s first tooth usually appears sometime between five to seven months. It can be so exciting to see what that toothless grin looks like after a pearly white tooth has popped through! Once baby teeth have started cutting in, it is important to master the routine of brushing.

How to Brush Baby Teeth

Brushing a baby’s teeth only takes a couple of minutes, the right toothbrush, and the right amount of toothpaste. By now, your baby will be used to ‘brushing’ his/her teeth after months of cleaning the gums with a wet cloth or gauze. For the first tooth, using toothpaste is not completely necessary, but it also will not hurt to introduce very small amounts of fluoridated or non-fluoridated toothpaste to build up the strength of developing teeth. The amount should be the size of a grain of rice until the child is able to spit out the excess.

When selecting your baby’s first toothbrush, find something small and with soft bristles that won’t irritate the gums. Wet the toothbrush a little bit and be sure to gently brush each side of the tooth. Once your baby has teeth that are next to each other, it is important to also clean in between the teeth.

When to Take a Baby to the Dentist for the First Time

A baby’s first well-child dental exam is best scheduled when you notice the first tooth coming through. The first visit is a great opportunity to ask any questions of your pediatric dentist and ask for clarifying advice on the best ways to keep your child’s growing teeth in the best shape! The Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa serves new pediatric patients at locations in Ankeny and West Des Moines, and we would love to partner with you in caring for your little one’s smile! Contact either of our offices today to schedule your first appointment!