Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby's first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your baby will be on her way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month 
 
Promoting Breastfeeding through Health Professionals 
Dentists are engaging in new roles as advocates for health promotion and disease prevention 
beyond the oral cavity (Salone, 2013). Increasing oral health and overall health literacy is important 
for dental and medical practitioners. Breastfeeding has been long known to provide many benefits to 
both mother and child. Benefits to the infant can include; nutrition, immune system health, ability to 
resist infectious diseases, physical and developmental growth and reduced risk of chronic diseases 
and allergy (United States Breastfeeding Committee, 2007). Breast milk also contains antiinflammatory factors. The professional consensus of the USBC, American Association of Pediatrics 
and the US Department of Health and Human Services agree that infants be exclusively breastfed for 
the first six months of life, and continue to breastfeed for the first year of life and as long afterward 
as mutually desired by the mother and child.
Breastfeeding, Mother and Infant Oral Health 
Concerns regarding early childhood caries, referred to as ECC, have arisen with dental professionals 
surrounding both formula feeding and breastfeeding. These are commonly referred to as “baby 
bottle decay” or “nursing caries”. ECC are very virulent, progress quickly and can have devastating 
effects on a child’s physical and psychological well being. However, breastfeeding has so many 
health benefits that it is still the optimal choice. The important factor is the care of the teeth and oral 
cavity after nursing. 
It is essential that, following any infant feeding, the teeth are wiped with a washcloth or softly 
brushed. This process can start with the gums, followed by the teeth as they begin to erupt and 
continuing after the introduction of carbohydrates and other foods to the infant’s diet (American 
Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Recommendation). The AAPD also encourages breastfeeding to 
promote overall health and wellness and recommends that an infant have their first dental 
examination before 12 months of age (or within 6 months of the first tooth erupting). This will 
provide an optimal time to assess the child’s risk for caries by evaluating their diet with their 
caregivers. 
It is also critical that oral care and health is optimal for the mother, who has the capability to pass 
Streptococcus Mutans, the species most commonly contributing to dental caries, and other bacteria 
on to the baby. The mother will want to maintain healthy teeth and gums through pregnancy, 
breastfeeding stages and beyond. If the mother maintains optimal oral health, it is more likely that 
this will become an important component in their child’s overall health. Dental professionals also 
have the ability to promote healthy choices for mother and baby. 

Caring for Gums

Even before your baby's first tooth appears, her gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby's gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.

Baby's First Tooth

When that first tooth makes an entrance, it's time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.

At this stage, toothpaste isn't necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn't react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don't give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months, then try the toothbrush again. During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.

Brushing with Toothpaste

When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child's brush. For the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, unless advised otherwise by your dentist, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing to prepare her for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.

Avoiding Cavities

Don't give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle — sugary liquids in prolonged contact with her teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.

First Visit to the Dentist

It's recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth's eruption — usually around her first birthday. Because decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely she is to avoid problems. We'll look for any signs of early problems with your baby's oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for her teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.

Setting a Good Example

As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and she'll intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as she shows interest, give her a toothbrush of her own and encourage her to "brush" with you. (You'll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy for her to grip.) Most children don't have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they're about six or seven, so you'll have to do that part of the job for her. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!