The Tooth Truth

Your little one’s first tooth is making its presence known. Here’s what you can do to help ensure a lifetime of good oral care.

WORDS MELISSA ESPECKERMAN
Is your little one in tears, or in pain, drooling excessively or maybe even constantly exploring his fingers with mouth? Well, chances are your baby doesn’t have an illness that needs an immediate trip to the paediatrician. Instead your baby may just be teething. While this can be an exciting milestone, it can be a very miserable time for both baby and parents.
While your baby develops his primary teeth while still in your womb, for most, their teeth only begin to erupt between six to 10 months of age. But for some, a first tooth may begin to make its appearance as early as four months.
However, oral care begins long before your baby’s first tooth cuts through his gums. Says Dr Terry Teo, senior registrar from the Paediatric Unit, Department of Restorative Dentistry, National Dental Centre of Singapore, “Before this age, you should regularly wipe your child’s gums with a clean soft towel especially after feeding.” This also makes introducing a toothbrush when the time comes a little easier.

Gummy Grin No More

All babies transition from that gummy grin to a mouthful of pearly whites. Teething, when new teeth are cutting through the surface of the gums, doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, it could take years for all your child’s teeth to appear. But the journey getting there can be tough on some. Some babies experience irritability, drooling and gum rubbing.
Don’t fret if you can’t seem to get your child comfortable or calm him down if he’s irritated. There are many ways to ease his discomfort. Try letting him bite on a chilled teething ring, cool plastic spoon or a cold wet washcloth. Make sure it’s clean though. Rubbing your little one’s gums with a clean finger might just help too. Another option is teething gels but the effect does not last very long and the child may even be more uncomfortable to the numb sensation.
Your role doesn’t end there. With the appearance of your baby’s teeth, it is important that you take the necessary steps to instil good oral health habits in your little one. Dr Teo advises, “When the first tooth erupts, brush the teeth with a soft, small-headed children’s toothbrush, once in the morning and once at night before bed.”
Hold off on the toothpaste for the time being. The right time to start using fluoride containing toothpaste is when your child is able to spit. However, if you decide to use toothpaste before that, Dr Elizabeth Tan, a specialist in Paediatric Dentistry from Specialist Dental Group recommends the following, “If a smear amount is used, on a relatively dry toothbrush and then wiped off later with a damp cloth, there is hardly any danger of excessive ingestion which would harm the child.”

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