The New Baby
At birth there are no teeth showing in the mouth, but the first teeth are forming under the gums. The saliva glands are not formed until about six months and when the baby starts to salivate more, it does not necessarily mean that the baby’s teeth are starting to erupt. However, the appearance of the first baby tooth at around five and a half to six months does usually coincide with the onset of salivation and dribbling! That is why it is inadvisable to give your baby regular solids as a diet until this time.
Not because he or she cannot chew them without teeth, but because there may not be enough saliva to moisten them and enable them to be swallowed comfortably. Just try eating a dry biscuit without a drink afterwards to wash it down. Occasionally babies are born with one or two teeth in place, usually the lower front ones. This is not a sign from God nor does it indicate that the baby is exceptionally advanced. The teeth have relatively little root formation and are fortunately lost after a few days. (They could make breastfeeding uncomfortable!)
‘Teething’ may give some discomfort as the teeth break through the gums. You can see the bumps in the gums which may appear red. Also the child’s cheeks may be red and hot. Usually a spoonful of paracetamol (acetaminophen) paediatric elixir will do the trick if the baby is not very uncomfortable and sometimes (rarely) the family doctor could be called in. But baby soon gets over it until the next tooth comes through. It’s usually all over by the age of two.
The mother should not compare the time of eruption or shedding of her children’s teeth with those of neighbours or friends. There is a wide variation, and early or late eruption generally means very little. If a friend’s child has a first tooth at five months and yours does not show signs of anything until eight months, it does not mean that the other baby is more advanced. It is just part of life’s variation. It is important not to fret about things like that. One of the prime causes of worry is child’s second tooth growing up behind the first one which is still there. This often happens and is no cause for worry. The first tooth will soon be shed and the position of the second tooth behind it is normal in most cases.
Feeding Your Child
Doctors prefer the mother to breastfeed the new baby There are many reasons for this, the most important being that the baby thus shares some of the immunity acquired by the mother against various diseases. Immunity factors are passed into the milk and so the baby has an added resistance for the first weeks of life.
From the dental viewpoint all the necessary balanced nutrients are in the mother’s milk so that the jaws and teeth can develop satisfactorily. The act of sucking is moreover of great importance to proper development. There is strong action of the tongue and pressure on the jaws and lips and these are then stimulated by the effort the child makes to obtain milk. Unfortunately most bottles for babies do not give this pressure for moulding the jaws, and the milk is obtained too easily, with resulting lack of stimulation for development. Another important point is the amount of trouble involved in bottle-feeding, the preparation of the milk formula, sterilization and preparation of the bottle and careful cleaning afterwards.
However, for one reason or another some mothers find it impossible to breastfeed and in that case the bottle will be an adequate substitute if it is carefully chosen and carefully looked after. There are now a number of well-designed feeding bottles available which do simulate the action of the breast. The mother must guard against being impatient and enlarging the hole in the rubber teat with a needle or pin to speed things up. The excuse usually is that baby is hungry or greedy and can’t wait to get enough inside! Too easy sucking should be avoided. It may lead to ‘tongue thrusting’ and crooked jaws.
If the mother is taking fluoride herself almost none passes to the child in her milk and so if there is none or little in the water supply, a fluoride supplement can be given to the child, starting at two or three weeks. The dose must be carefully worked out according to the amount in the public water supply.
It is better to ask your chemist for a fluoride liquid such as Luride Oral Paediatric Drops (Hoyt) which can be measured drop by drop much more accurately than trying to break a tablet into quarters. But, before doing anything, show the chart above to your dentist or doctor and get him to prescribe the correct dose for your area.
As your child gets older the teeth erupt and they should be cleaned by mother or another adult. Children under seven are not able to brush effectively, but it is useful training to let them try every day, handling the brush themselves and then the parent follows up to make sure a useful result has been obtained.
Dummies or comforters for babies are not as badly thought of as in years past. A baby will suck something, a thumb, blanket or comforter. If comforters are used : (1) they must be clean. (2) they must not be dipped in sugary substances. (3) they should not be of the ‘miniature feeder’ type which can have sugary fluids put in them. Blackcurrant syrups for babies and children are usually loaded with sugar and will rot the teeth as they form if left in contact with them.
A child’s toothbrush should be used. This of course has a small head and a short handle. The handle should not have a pointed end.
Use the smallest possible amount of a well known manufacturer’s fluoride toothpaste. Use a small amount because young children swallow all sorts of things and swallowing soapy toothpaste can be unpleasant.A small fraction of the fluoride in a quarter-inch strip of toothpaste, if swallowed will do no harm.