Baby teeth seem somewhat disposable, but your baby will actually have those teeth until he's 5 to 7 years old.
Baby teeth are also sometimes called primary teeth. They start to make their appearance when a baby is between 4 and 7 months old. Most kids have all 20 of their baby teeth by their third birthdays.
Baby teeth serve several important functions: They help your baby to speak and chew, of course, and they also hold space in the jaws for your baby's permanent teeth, which are growing under his gums.
The American Dental Association, or the ADA, recommends your baby have his first trip to the dentist within six months after his first tooth appears, and certainly by his first birthday. You can think of these visits as "baby teeth checkups."
The ADA recommends beginning to clean your baby's mouth the first few days after he's born. If that ship has already sailed, the ADA urges parents to begin cleaning teeth as soon as teeth erupt to remove plaque and prevent tooth decay.
Here's what our Mommy M.D.s — doctors who are also mothers — do to brush their own babies' teeth.
"When my kids were babies, I used a washcloth and a bit of baby toothpaste to clean their teeth," says Ann Kulze, M.D., a mom of two grown daughters and two grown sons, a nationally recognized nutrition expert, a motivational speaker, a family physician and the author of the bestselling book "Eat Right for Life" in Charleston, South Carolina. "The American Dental Association accepts this method for cleaning an infant's teeth. I found that using a washcloth was easier than using a toothbrush."
"Before my babies had teeth, I used a washcloth to clean their gums to get them used to having their mouth cleaned. Also, I washed away the milkiness on their tongues," says Jennifer Bacani McKenney, M.D., a mom of two children and a family physician in Fredonia, Kansas.
"I started to brush my babies' gums very early, when they started to eat solid foods, with a finger toothbrush," says Robyn Liu, M.D., a mom of two daughters and a family physician with Greeley County Health Services in Tribune, Kansas. "I brushed their gums before they went to sleep. As soon as my daughters had teeth that were touching, I started to floss them with dental floss picks. They're easy to use because you can hold the pick with one hand and the baby with your other hand."
"I must admit I never brushed my baby's gums," says Kristie McNealy, M.D., a mom of four and a health care consultant in Salt Lake City. "I had enough to do, let alone brush nonexistent teeth! But when my babies were a few months old, I let them start playing with the baby toothbrush. Once their teeth began to pop through, I started to brush them."
"I found brushing my babies' teeth to be quite a challenge," says Jennifer Gilbert, D.O., a mom of twins and an OB-GYN at Paoli Hospital in Pennsylvania. "I found it to be really difficult, and I probably did it three times a week at bath time. When my babies were really small, they had major aversions to toothbrushes. I used the mimicking technique. I would say, "Open your mouth," and then I opened my mouth. Sometimes, they opened their mouths, and I would quickly dart in with the brush."
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: jennyfriedrichs at Pixabay