From Gummy Grin to Toothy Smiles: Oral Healthcare

by | Mar 25, 2024

MamaMagic spoke to passionate and sought-after dentist Dr Boitumelo Fatola. With the world bringing awareness to World Oral Hygiene during March, we knew our community would benefit from wisdom and tips to keep your little one’s oral care in minty condition.

MM: Tell us more about Teething. So many parents dread this stage.

Dr F: Every little one is different, but really, there’s nothing to dread, and you can help your little one prepare. Teething typically begins around six months, ranging from 4 to 30 months. There’s no need to worry if your baby seems a little behind schedule. However, if there are still no signs of teeth by 18 months, a visit to the dentist is recommended for a checkup.

As those tiny teeth push through the gums, your baby might experience discomfort. Here are some common signs of teething:

  • Itchy gums: This is why you might see your baby chewing on everything in sight!
  • Excessive drooling: Drool bibs will be your new best friend.
  • Restlessness and irritability: Teething can be uncomfortable, so a fussy baby is entirely normal.
  • Low-grade fever: A slight temperature rise can sometimes accompany teething.

MM: Can you offer soothing solutions for teething discomfort for those little ones who need it?

Dr F: Certainly. There are plenty of ways to help your baby manage teething discomfort. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Rubber teethers: These provide a safe and satisfying surface for chewing.
  • Chilled washcloth: A cool compress can numb the gums.
  • Gentle gum massage: Use a clean finger to gently massage your baby’s gums.

A note to parents here: thumbsucking and pacifiers affect dentition. They push the upper jaw upwards, narrowing it and pushing the resulting teeth forward, too.

MM: How do we go about establishing a brilliant oral hygiene routine

Dr F: You can actually start laying the foundation for good oral health even before your baby’s first tooth erupts! Here’s a simple routine to follow at various ages.

  • Three months and up: Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad after each feeding.
  • After three months: Introduce a finger brush made of soft silicone.
  • Six months and up: Use a pea-sized amount of xylitol toothpaste on the silicone brush. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that can help prevent cavities.
  • Once teeth erupt: Graduate to a soft-bristled, age-appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste. 

Remember, parents, you also set the example. Your little ones will mimic you, so let them play as they see you brush when they get a little older.

MM: How do we continue keeping tiny teeth healthy

Dr F: Maintaining healthy teeth and good oral health is much easier than most people think.

  • Limit sugary foods and drinks. This includes candy, juice, and even sugary cereals. It’s tempting to give in, but children are easily distracted. Practice the art of distraction when they are demanding the sugary treats we love. To satiate their sugary need, give them pieces of whole fruit.
  • Brushing after meals: This helps remove food particles that can cause cavities.
  • Nighttime routine: Brushing before bed is essential to remove leftover sugar and bacteria.
  • Water is best: Encourage your baby to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially after meals.
  • Ditch the bottle in bed: Avoid letting your baby fall asleep with a bottle or breastmilk in their mouth. I know exhaustion can overwhelm us, but if you gently slow and then stop the feed as they do off, it will make giving up the need to feed at night easier as they grow older.
  • Breastfeeding is ideal: Breast milk provides essential nutrients for your baby’s development, including oral health.

When to See a Dentist

I highly recommend that babies have their first dental visit by their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth erupting. This is a chance for us to assess your baby’s oral health, answer any questions, and positively introduce your little one to the dental environment. Dentist visits shouldn’t be scary.

Remember, teething is a natural part of your baby’s development. By understanding the process and implementing these simple tips, you can help your little one experience a smooth transition and set them on the path to a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Additional Concerns

If you notice any signs of infection, such as white patches on the tongue (thrush) or red, swollen gums, consult your paediatrician or dentist. Remember, we’re here to serve our community of families, and we would love to see you, so bring your concerns to light on your next visit.

Follow Dr Fatola on Instagram for more interesting insights into your family’s healthcare: @drfatola_dentist