Baby Teeth are important too!
A common misconception is that baby teeth are not important. They are going to lose them anyway, right? Well baby teeth act to help our children eat, develop speech and also to improve the skeletal structure of their developing face too.
Before bubs have teeth, there is no real need to clean their gums. The most important thing at this stage is to limit sharing cutlery like spoons, or sharing the dummy (yes I have seen parents do this). Babies and our kids need to establish their own oral bacteria. Oral bacteria is important as it is the beginning of digestion and is part of the first processes of taste and food breakdown. This bacteria can be picked up from parents, which is great if you have your gums and teeth healthy.
What normally happens during pregnancy is that mums forget about their oral hygiene due to nausea or bleeding gums, which is really common with all the hormone swings. With the decreased oral hygiene and usually also less dental visits in this critical time, the early stages of gum disease or even tooth decay can set in. This spike in harmful bacteria can then be passed onto the baby, setting them up to be at higher risk of bleeding gums or decay later on.
Baby can get teeth really early, and it is important to keep the teeth healthy even though these teeth will be lost later on. The best thing to remember is that a baby should never go to sleep sucking on a bottle of anything other than water. Milk includes natural sugar, called lactose. This has the ability to cause “bottle caries” or “bottle decay” which is literally decay that occurs due to bottle feeding.
Parents do not need to be too worried about feeding, there just needs to be a break between milk sessions (as there naturally is). The problem occurs when parents put the baby to bed with a bottle, so that the baby can suck on the bottle constantly for potentially hours at a time. Another no-no is letting your baby drink fruit juices between milk sessions, for the same reason where the decay rate is likely to go up.
In the early stages, to clean teeth, wiping the gums and teeth with a face washer is all that is needed. The aim is to gently wipe off any plaque that occurs. There is definitely no need to use toothpaste this early.
As you baby grows up, using a toothbrush is more important. This allows the child to be accustomed to this process. Again there is no need for toothpaste, as diet is more important here. I found with my children that lying the child down with their head in my lap always worked best for me. It helps too if the child is distracted with holding a toy or watching tv just for a minute, so that I can brush teeth without having them pull it out of their mouth.