• Baby Teeth: Tips on Home Dental Care

    The Importance of Baby Teeth, Good Brushing Habits, Flouride and Smiles

    They are the unsung heroes of early development: baby teeth, those gatekeepers of the early smile.

    They are the magnificent performers who make important contributions to the show, then leave the stage, right about the time they should be getting a huge round of applause.

    Molars and canines migrate through the gums in a way that helps create spacing for the second set of teeth.

    The key to good teeth care is to establish a consistent cleaning routine as soon as teeth begin to appear. “Theoretically, cavities are entirely preventable,” says Stephen Wilson, DMD, MA, PhD, director of the Division of Pediatric Dentistry at Cincinnati Children’s.

    “The best advice for parents is to set a good example. Be that role model. Brush with your kids.”

    The most important factors, he says, are a healthy diet, fluoride, good brushing and flossing habits, and regular visits to the dentist.

    Baby teeth typically begin to emerge at four to nine months of age, although that varies. Parents should start brushing (very gently) those teeth as soon as they break through.

    Right before, and during, the emergence of baby teeth, infants will appear to be in discomfort from the teeth “cutting” through the gums.

    Some babies experience significant pain, other babies do not. Cool teething rings can help.

  • More Tips from the Dentist

    Girl brushes her teeth.

    Stephen Wilson, Director of the Division of Pediatric Dentistry, offers wisdom to parents:

    On when to start flossing: There are five surfaces of the tooth and a toothbrush only gets to three, the top and tongue and cheek sides. It’s the sides between the teeth that need flossing. If the teeth are touching, you should be flossing, so that could be by two or three years of age.

    Getting a child to be comfortable in a dentist’s chair: I always have the dental light at their chest when I first turn it on and then I slowly move it up to the chin. But I never shine it in their eyes. I say, ‘pretend you are watching an airplane and look up at the sky.’ That way the light doesn’t scare them. I talk them through it.

    On the rotating tooth polisher with the high-pitched whiny sound: I tell them it’s just a toothbrush that’s round, and it tickles.

    On “candy-like” toothpastes that some kids prefer: The level of fluoride is the key, that’s the active ingredient. Otherwise there is no real difference. Manufacturers of toothpaste have figured out flavorings, so if you need to use those, that’s fine.