As a first time mom, I was always anxious about what milestone our little girl was going to hit next. My husband and I would take endless pictures & videos of our little girl on her play mat, in the jolly jumper, at the park, playing with the dogs, and mumbling her first words. We wrote about every little thing in her journal from different coos to smiles, to diaper explosions. But what I was awaiting most was the arrival of her first tooth. As a registered dental hygienist, I was more obsessed with her teeth than the average first time mom, but I had good reason to be. I know the importance of proper dental care starting at a young age and how it affects overall health. We are all concerned about the well being of our little ones - we book checkups, turn to the internet for advice on every diaper rash, but often overlook oral health in the early years. I am here to share the first tooth milestone stages and important things to look for when it comes to your baby’s oral health, as both a mom and a hygienist.
Stage #1: Teething
If you were to ask my husband, our daughter was teething since she was 3 months old by the way I would analyze her. Every time she would cry or begin to act fussy, I would tell him “I think she’s teething!” over and over again, or as he would say “you sound like a broken record”. In the end, her first tooth did not start cutting through until she was 9 months old. I eventually apologized to my husband for the 6-month period I was blaming everything on her ‘teething”.
Teething can be a very difficult and frustrating time. If your baby is uncomfortable, what can we do to sooth the pain? Depending on how old your baby starts teething a number of options are available:
- A cold damp washcloth worked wonders with our daughter when she was younger
- A teething toy, especially rubber ones you could put into the fridge were her favourite
- Pain relief medications helped when her first molars started to cut. Molars are bigger teeth and we found bothered her a lot more. The same happened with her canines.
Below is an image from the Canadian Dental association showing when you should expect each tooth to erupt.
Stage #2: First Tooth
When her tooth came in I wanted to make sure that I was using the latest and greatest products available for her. Although we had been wiping her gums with a soft washcloth with water for a few months, a tooth was a different milestone in our little girl’s life. We kept with the washcloth and used a xylitol rinse around her first tooth to start.
We used a rinse with xylitol because it’s an all-natural active that has been proven to kill the bad bacteria in our mouths (called Streptococcus mutans) while keeping the good bacteria. You do not want to kill all of the bacteria in your mouth because the good bacteria are beneficial in many ways for not only our oral health, but also overall health. For example, there have been studies where xylitol has helped decrease ear infections in children! These and many other reasons are why I chose to use a xylitol rinse as the staple of our daughters oral health care routine. Not only did she love the taste of xylitol but she enjoyed us rubbing her tooth as well. As teeth are cutting through the gums, it is thought that they ‘itch’ the baby. So the more they are stimulated the less they ‘itch’ to a baby, therefore making the rubbing of a tooth a great feeling of relief to a baby’s ‘itchy’ tooth!
Stage #3: Introducing a Toothbrush
As a few more teeth started to cut through I graduated her to a children’s extra soft toothbrush. At first she was a little confused by the bristles, but the familiar flavour of the same rinse we used previously allowed for a quick, painless transition into her new oral care routine. In time, we began to develop a more established routine, after breakfast and before bed, we would be excited, smile and tell her “Ok! It’s time to brush our teeth”. In a short time, our daughter began to look forward to brushing her teeth after meals, a dental hygienist’s dream come true!
As she got a bit older I would dip the toothbrush into the xylitol rinse a few times, and then I would let her hold it to try brushing. Afterwards I would brush around properly to make sure she hadn’t missed any teeth. Needless to say, this was the milestone I was most anxious for and in the end, it was one of the easiest ones she and I got through… only a few minor biting of my fingers here and there. She is almost two now and I can confidently say she has never put up a fight to brush her teeth… she even asks out of the blue to brush her teeth extra times during the day some days!
-Nikki Sirotkin, RHD