DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is the oral care specialist and dental consultant to the Brilliant and Baby Buddy oral care lines through Compac Industries. See terms below.
You’re expecting a baby!! Congratulations! Welcome to information OVERLOAD!! There is so much to learn, so many important things to know and remember, and your precious little one is worth every single bit of information swimming around in your brain. Educating yourself before the baby comes eases the waiting process and gives you the knowledge and resources to formulate a care plan. Once the baby arrives you then (for the most part) have your ducks in a row. Well, some of them, at least. Babies can be quite unpredictable.
One of the most important topics that you can educate yourself with, surprisingly one so important but not given enough attention, is the subject of oral care for babies. I know your first thought, “babies don’t have teeth for months, and it takes a while before all their teeth come in, so it’s not an issue.” It is a common misconception among expectant and new parents, but it IS a real issue and it IS important. The first six months of life sets a foundation for babies, and good oral care is one of those important foundations.
Breastmilk and formula both have the ability to contribute to mouth (oral) infections like bacterial problems, and even the harrowing effects of reflux and excessive spit-up can cause these as well. This can allow acids to coat the mouth, gums, cheeks, which changes the protective pH balance of the mouth and irritates the tissues, which could lead to oral conditions that may need medical help later on in their development. You can start oral care and dental care activity early by using a sterile cloth to gently wipe baby’s gums, tongue, and inside cheeks after their. The best way to start this routine and remember to do it is by making it a part of every feeding, like how burping should follow every feeding, so should some form of cleaning baby’s mouth. This activity accomplishes two things: it removes any milk residue that has been left over from feedings throughout the day, helping to prevent a build up of bacteria from happening in their mouth, which if not removed could cause negative issues for your baby, now and possibly in the future.
Remember, you're not just wiping out their mouth, you are conditioning yourself and your baby to get used to and accept this new routine as normal. Studies in early oral care prevention have shown that children who were introduced to brushing and gum wiping routines early in life had significantly less occurrences of oral care diseases and cavities later on in life. Babies are wired to know different things go in their mouth. From the action of sucking then on to teething, their most dominant sense during this time frame is oral stimulation. If you begin this routine early with your baby, not only are you laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits but you are preparing the mouth and gums for the arrival of new budding teeth to grow into. This time in their growth and development they are most accepting to this type of good habit forming routine. Babies in general do love to have their mouths wiped and cleaned. It is an important activity that increases their bond with you and their trust in you. You are the foundation for implementing this routine into their daily schedule of life, and they will continue to grow and build on this practice as they grow and mature. An excellent tool and product that can help you in this process is Brilliant’s Tooth Tissues Mouth Wipes. These Tooth Tissues Mouth Wipes are naturally derived dental wipes enhanced with xylitol. Xylitol helps keep harmful bacteria from sticking to teeth and gums, while the soft, bamboo based wipe cleans by removing food and drink. Paraben and fluoride free, these bubble-gum flavored wipes were specially developed by a pediatric dentist, and they offer an easy portable solution for a cleaner, more hygienic mouth.
Babies can begin to start teething as early as 3 months old. This is when they experience an increase in their saliva as their mouth prepares for the coming of their first tooth. Many babies receive their first tooth between 4-8 months of age, although some children make it to their first birthday still toothless. No matter when your child begins teething it is a huge milestone in their growth and development and presents the perfect opportunity for you to introduce and implement their regular oral care routine.
As they grow and change, your next step is to add a silicone toothbrush to oral care routine. There are several different styles and types of silicone toothbrushes for babies. A great place to start with is a finger brush. This is one where the brush fits tightly over an adult's finger. A finger brush has small nubs of bristles on one side that you will use to brush within their mouth. You use this by wiping and brushing over the baby's gums and tongue. Brilliant's Finger Toothbrush is a great example of the type of brush you want to use at this stage. You don't want to use fluoride pastes or gels yet because fluoride is not safe for a baby to swallow. Xylitol enhanced mouth gels are wonderful alternatives to use. Xylitol actually helps to corral the pathogenic bacteria in the mouth by inhibiting their ability to proliferate and grow, essentially starving the bacteria of a food source, making them less adherent to oral tissues. Spry Tooth Gelcontains xylitol and has a great strawberry-banana flavor that kids love! You only need a small smudge of gel, about the size of a grain of rice, for brushing. Xylitol is safe if swallowed within the recommended safety dose for babies and children. In fact, xylitol works so well at inhibiting bacterial growth, that you will find it in many different types of ear drops, nose sprays, or throat lozenges as the active ingredient that helps to prevent and even treat infections.
In all this fun growth and development, your baby will be in the stage they call full “active teething”. You can’t miss it once they are there. You will see them chewing, biting, and gnawing on anything and EVERYTHING. And to say they won’t be very happy is an understatement. Teething is really a lot of misery for them. Have patience, they don’t know why it hurts so much and it’s very frustrating to them (and to you, for that matter). This teething stage is where they will put anything in their mouths, so constantly be aware of what is within their reach. You will notice how strong their bite has become when you try to put your finger in their mouth for brushing or wiping as you perform their oral care. This is a good time to move to a silicone toothbrush, one where the design has handles or grippers on it that will allow you to brush for them without you having to put your fingers in their mouth. It also serves the purpose to let them use it to soothe themselves by being able to teethe on the brush all by themselves (obviously you are there supervising them so they don’t try to swallow the brush or cause themselves any harm).
Brushing Helps Teething
There are a lot of different brushes to choose from. One is Baby’s 1st Teether-Brush(toothbrush) by Brilliant. This silicone brush is a little bit firmer type of brush, don't worry this is a good option. With this brush your baby is getting a good gum brushing AND it also helps to soothe sore, tender gums as their teeth begin to erupt through the gums. At this stage you may notice little swollen bumps in their mouth. This is nothing to fret over, those are their little teeth trying to ease through the gum tissue. Encourage your baby to teethe on safe items like this as much as is possible to help ease their discomfort. Most of these silicone teethers you can also chill and or freeze, which helps to provide relief from teething pain. Make sure you wash teethers, brushes, and any toys that your baby chews on on a regular basis.
Healthy Mouths Lead to Healthy, Happy Babies!!
One day you will finally see that their first tooth has come through the gums. At that point, throw a party! Those first few teeth are the sweetest sight and the best addition to their smile. Once a tooth completely erupts into the mouth, you need to add a bristled toothbrush to baby’s oral care routine. This is a time when the baby will still be teething and want and need teething relief, but they will also have new teeth needing a good bristle brushing as well. Continue to use the silicone toothbrush and then add in the bristle toothbrush for their new teeth. You will find the Brilliant Baby Toothbrush will successfully clean their little teeth. Bristle toothbrushes are not ever to be used for teething purposes by babies or chewed on by children. These bristles are not meant to be chewed or bitten, nor is the plastic handle designed for that type of pressure caused by biting down. Biting down on bristles can cause painful mouth sores or ulcers by piercing the gum tissue. Choose a baby toothbrush with soft, and short bristles. PARENTS - Important note: You are performing all the oral care from now until around age 5. For the first 5 years of a child's life, YOU are the one who will be doing ALL of the oral care for your child. Children usually do not acquire the proper dexterity to effectively brush their own teeth until around age 5, and in some cases, later than age 5. So, as you’ve trained yourself as the parent/caretaker to feed them regularly, bathe them regularly, put them to sleep with regularity, and you will also need to do their oral care regularly for them. Now, this does not mean they won't eventually be brushing their own teeth, don't worry, they will, but not until they are older and have proven they have the most effective means of brushing and can execute it effectively on their own.
It’s A LOT of information to digest, but by learning early you will be well prepared to take care of your baby’s mouth, gums and, eventually teeth, when the time presents itself. Prior knowledge gives you lasting benefits!!
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