Many new parents do not realise that newborn babies need much oral care, but like adults they are susceptible to infections, soreness and are more at risk of suffering from oral thrush.
When a baby is first born, they will be either preferably breast or bottle fed and should be held whilst these feeds are taking place. Nipples should be kept clean at all times when a baby is young and breast feeding as germs can transmit from the skin into the baby’s mouth. Bottles should be thoroughly washed and sterilised between uses using a specially designed sterilser.
There are many types of sterilising units available from cold water solutions to microwavable ones. Each person will select the type that is most suitable for them. Instructions must be followed rigidly, especially during the first 6 months. Teats should be suitable to the baby’s age and needs; for example a hungrier older baby will be more likely to require a faster flowing teat. These should be used if needed to help prevent the incidence of ear infections. If your baby uses a dummy, this will need regular cleaning also, to prevent the transmission of germs to the baby’s mouth and digestive system.
Babies are prone to getting oral thrush, but if the infection continues to recur, it may be worthwhile buying new feeding equipment if the baby is bottle fed. Very rarely a baby will be born with a tooth already. If the tooth is not loose it may not cause any problems, if it is loose however it will probably need taking out to prevent it from becoming inhaled and lodged in the windpipe. If your baby has a tooth at birth, inspect it regularly for signs of loosening and tell your health visitor.
Teeth can begin to appear around the age of 6 months. From this time the mouth should be regularly inspected for any signs of dental cavities as these can appear as soon as teeth appear. They are more likely to occur if the baby is drinking lots of juices, even if dilute, or if poor diet and sweets are offered.
With the exception of the occasional drink of juice, a baby does not require sugary foods or sweets in their diet. Juice should be offered in a beaker or feeding cup as prolonged sucking on a teat can increase the amount of time teeth are exposed to the sugar content. When teeth are present they should be brushed daily using a soft bristled brush suitable for a baby’s use. Alternatively the teeth and gums can be cleaned using gauze wrapped around a clean finger until more teeth have broken through. Dummies should never be dipped in drinks or foods as the amount of time the dummy is in the mouth means sugar is on the teeth as well.
During the teething period a baby can produce lots of saliva and dribble a lot, sometimes it seems at the time. This can cause their lips and surrounding area to become sore. Encourage the child to allow you to dry it using a soft cloth. The application of a small amount of Vaseline or another barrier cream may help to prevent soreness and soothe irritation.
Although most babies do not have teeth when very young, they still require a certain amount of oral care. This will help prevent problems later on and encourage the child from the very beginning to look after their teeth.