A child’s primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, are just as important as the adult set and require daily care. Baby teeth begin to appear in children when they are between 6 months and 12 months old. Baby teeth can arrive in any order, although the central bottom teeth are usually the first to appear.
It is important to see your dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth and no later than the child’s first birthday. This dental examination is important for the purpose of checking for dental tooth decay, assessing the potential effects of thumb sucking, and also for advice on how to clean and care for your baby’s teeth.
Even before a child’s first teeth appear, you should gently wipe the gums with a soft, moist cloth once a day. When a baby begins teething, it is normal for he or she to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Sore, swollen or tender gums
- Loss of appetite
- Sucking on objects such as dummies, toys or bibs
- Rubbing of the face
If your baby experiences vomiting, diarrhoea, fever or a runny nose, these symptoms are generally not associated with teething, especially if they last for more than 24 hours. One explanation for the common appearance of these symptoms during the teething period is that because babies are frequently putting objects in their mouths at this time, they are more likely to come into contact with germs and viruses.
Gently rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a small, cold spoon can be soothing and giving your baby a teething ring to chew on can also be helpful. Products containing beonzocaine, an anaesthetic, are not recommended as this has been associated with a rare but sometimes fatal condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder that causes a dramatic reduction in the amount of oxygen carried in the bloodstream.
Caring for Baby Teeth
Once the first primary tooth comes through, brushing with water should begin once a day after the last feed with a specially designed baby’s toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. A pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste should be used for brushing. This will gently clean the teeth and massage the gums. In general, a baby’s first four teeth appear sometime around 6 months of age, although some babies don’t get their first teeth until they are over a year old. By the age of 3, a child’s full set of 20 primary teeth should have appeared.
Book an appointment with your dentist if you have any concerns about the teething process.