Your baby's first teeth are especially sensitive. Although these ‘baby teeth’ or ‘milk teeth’ will all fall out between the ages of five and twelve and the permanent teeth will follow, the milk teeth also need good care early on. As soon as your child gets their first teeth, you should teach them how to brush them through play. The healthier the baby teeth are, the better it is for the permanent teeth. You'll get tips on how to best care for them at your child's checkups. A first visit to a dentist is necessary at the age of two or three years at the earliest.
Most babies are seemingly born toothless. In reality, however, all the milk teeth are already in place in the jaw by this time and the incisors are almost fully developed. But they are still hidden in the gums. Once your child is six to eight months old, the dental crowns will slowly push out. The first tooth to emerge from the gums is usually an incisor. Gradually the other teeth follow. All eight incisors are usually visible by the time a baby turns one. However, tooth development varies from child to child. For some children it goes faster, for others slower. When your child is about three years old, the primary dentition, which consists of twenty milk teeth, is fully visible. By this time, the permanent teeth are already growing in under the milk teeth.
Just because baby teeth are eventually replaced by permanent teeth doesn't mean they're unimportant. Your child needs them to eat and talk. In addition, the milk teeth serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth. There is not much room in the small jaw of a baby or toddler. But over time, the jaw grows. This causes the milk teeth to move apart and the result is a set of teeth with gaps. However, the new, permanent teeth are larger and wider, so that a closed row of teeth gradually forms again. Baby teeth should be cared for just as well as permanent teeth. If they are affected by cavities, be sure to make an appointment at a dental office. Cavities must also be treated in milk teeth. Otherwise, there is a risk that the caries bacteria that cause cavities will damage the permanent teeth later as well. A doctor's appointment is also necessary if your child's gums or the roots of their teeth are inflamed or infected.
For most babies, the first teeth begin to show when they are about five months old. This process is called teething. For some babies, it goes pretty smoothly. For others, it's a real pain. Most often, teething is announced by the fact that the child is restless, sleeps poorly, produces a lot of saliva and chews on hard objects. This chewing not only relieves the itching and pain in the mouth. It also makes it easier for the teeth to get through the gums. There is often some minor swelling or light bumps in your baby's mouth during this time. This is a sign of the teeth that are pushing through the gums. Usually, your baby’s discomfort will stop after a few days and the tooth will come out.
The best way to relieve teething pain is to use a teething ring that your child can chew on. If you refrigerate it, it will be even more comfortable for your child. Additionally, you can gently massage your child's gums with a finger. Teething also affects the immune system. Many children get other illnesses more easily during this time, for example diarrhoea or a slight fever. Most of the time the problems are harmless. However, if your child has an elevated temperature or diarrhoea for several days, you should go to the paediatrician.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance found in some foods and in water. Among other things, it helps harden tooth enamel and makes it less susceptible to acids. Even the smallest amounts of fluoride make teeth more resistant to cavity-causing bacteria in saliva. In order for teeth to develop healthily and become resistant to cavities, infants should be given fluoride even before their first incisors are visible. At the U2 check-up, you and your paediatrician will discuss whether your child needs additional fluoride and whether it should be given in the form of tablets, for example.
Your child learns a lot from you. That's why it's important that they see how you take care of your teeth. Keep your own teeth healthy and brush your teeth at least twice a day, preferably with your child present. If you ever need to go to the dentist, it's good to take your baby with you. Then they get to know this environment right away. Also, from day one, you should avoid sharing your baby's pacifier or licking baby spoons and then putting them in the baby's mouth. Even with the best dental care, there may be tooth decay bacteria in your mouth, which you would then pass on to the child.
Caring for milk teeth begins with the first tooth. But even before the first tooth is visible, you can clean your child's chewing area with a washcloth or cotton swab. Try to stay relaxed and not force anything. This will be helped by your child's natural curiosity to explore and put things in their mouth. Let your baby get used to it slowly. Nothing should be done if your child's resists. There are special toothpastes and toothbrushes for babies with extra soft bristles. The toothpaste should not be sweetened or flavored. It's a good idea to set fixed times for brushing so that your child gets used to it. For example, it can be an integral part of going to bed. First brushing teeth, then a bedtime story, a picture book or a bedtime song and then sleep is a lovely ritual throughout childhood.
The best way to protect teeth is to prevent your child from getting used to sweet drinks or juices in the first place. If possible, only give them unsweetened tea and tap water to drink. If your child eats something sweet, you should brush their teeth afterwards. If that's not possible right then, at least have your child rinse their mouth out with water. Sweets should rarely be given to your child. The bacteria in your child's mouth use sugar to produce acids that attack teeth. Low sugar and sufficient calcium are good for the development of teeth. There is enough calcium in breast milk and infant formula. When your child is older, you can also give them different vegetables to eat, such as broccoli and fennel, which are high in calcium. From about ten months, you should get your child used to solid foods. This is important for the development of the jaw muscles. There should be breaks between meals during which your child doesn't eat. This allows the teeth to recover. Don't give your child a feeding bottle or sippy cup. These items may be practical. But they have a bad effect on the position of the teeth and jaw. Once your child is about a year old, they should learn to drink from cups and glasses.