There is a lot to think about in the first year of your baby's life, so Dentist & Co-Founder of Habox Katie Davis has put together everything you need to know to help you keep your baby’s mouth healthy.
Gums (0-6 months)
● If possible opt for breastfeeding where possible and babies only need breastmilk or formula for 6 months.
● The World Health Organisation (WHO) advices to continue breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond (1).
● If your baby is formula fed, ensure they are not left unsupervised with a bottle overnight, as this can cause decay (2).
● Dental wipes are soft and gently formulated, providing a unique texture to help cleanse delicate gums.
● They can be a great option to use on your babies gums before their teeth have erupted.
● Teething wipes can help to establish a healthy oral environment. Keeping babies' gums clean can help to prevent teething pain.
● The introduction of the teething wipes before their teeth erupt means that your baby will get used to the feel and taste of something in their mouth other than breast milk or formula.
First Teeth (usually around 6-12 months)
Weaning & Drinking
● At 6 months, babies are offered weaning foods to complement breast or formula feeding. So many patients ask us if babies need ‘teeth’ to wean, you only need to have been ‘gummed’ once by a baby to realise that their gums are definitely strong enough for weaning. They’ll surprise you with what they can chew once they learn how.
● A free-flowing cup containing only boiled water (or breast milk / formula) should be introduced at 6 months. I find it helps to think of this as a ‘skill practice’ rather than a source of hydration initially as they need to learn the co-ordination and timing of drinking from a cup. Cups with handles like a doidy cup, or the small ‘shot glass’ size baby cups are fab.
● Do not add sugar to weaning foods or drinks.
● Avoid, where possible, sugary foods, snacks and drinks. Snacks like breadsticks can keep them entertained for a while, are easy to hold, soft once gummed and low in sugar.
● As soon as teeth erupt in the mouth, try to brush them twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste**.
● The official advice is that children aged 0-3 use no less than 1000ppm Fluoride, however, we advise that until they are 1 and have limited ability to spit, you can use a teething toothpaste with less fluoride.
● Brush before breakfast and before bed.
● Use a flat smear of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice)
** trying to brush a wriggly 9 months olds’ teeth is somewhat akin to wrestling an octopus into a shopping bag, trust me, I understand. I don’t want you worry or feel any guilt that your brushing isn’t as effective as you feel it should be. This stage is about being consistent, your baby will soon know that they have their teeth brushed before breakfast milk or at bath time, or whenever you choose to do it. Chat to them about what you are doing, sing a little tooth brushing song, give them a toothbrush to hold, let them watch you brush your teeth, try out different positions – try anything and everything that makes it fun and normal. Not sure on how to do this? We have plenty of advice and videos on our Instagram page, @myhabox, that can help you.
● At this point, I’d like to point out that some babies really suffer as their teeth come through and some seem to sail through easy peasy. Often there is nothing that we can do about it but I find feeling like we are doing ‘something’ is good for your baby and parents too. I don’t have the magic answer and I have found that someone’s gold dust does nothing for another baby. As with many things in your baby’s first year - try it and see what works for you! My job is to let you know what’s safe and what the options are.
Keeping your baby's mouth clean will reduce bacteria in the mouth which will help reduce teething pain.
● Dental wipes are great before teeth have come through and can be cooled which is soothing for the gums.
● Once teeth have come through, we advise brushing the gums with a soft toothbrush (5). Our Baby Habox toothpaste contains soothing chamomile.
Relief of pain
● Chewing provides a soothing distraction for babies and this gentle pressure massages the gums which alleviates pain. Most products can be kept in the fridge (NOT the freezer as its too cold for their mouths) to provide additional relief.
● Once your baby is fully weaned cold foods like carrots and cucumber can soothe the gums with gentle chewing, something useful to remember when their baby molars come sneaking in... just when you thought you had already survived teething.
● Children’s paracetamol and ibuprofen can be given if you feel your baby is in pain. Aim for sugar-free and ask your pharmacist about the correct amount to give. ‘Calpol and cuddles’ was one our dentists sayings as she survived teething with twins.
More Teeth (Over 12 months) Dental check by their first birthday.
● Book your baby in for their free NHS dentist checkup before they turn 1, or when their first tooth appears, whichever happens soonest (3).
● Don’t worry if you have to delay your baby’s first dental check because of Covid. It’s unlikely they will have any dental problems so young. These appointments are to support you and help your baby get used to the dental environment (4).
● Start moving away from using a bottle by age one. A free flowing cup is the next step and babies will love working on their grip and fine finger and hand eye coordination movement.
This blog post was written by Katie Davis who is a dentist & co-founder of Habox. A dental health subscription box designed specifically for children and babies, you can also find out more @myhaboxuk.
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