Your child’s first baby smile appears between 6 to 12 weeks.
The smile that you see before is usually a reflex smile that lasts only until the first 2 months.
You can tell a real one apart from a reflex one because of its duration.
Real smiles are longer and occur in response to something while reflex ones just happen randomly for instance while sleeping.
They are also very healthy for your child and beneficial for brain development.
Though, you should also hope to main your child’s smile.
You can do that by taking care of their oral hygiene even before their teeth appear so that they never hide their beautiful smile.
Good teeth and oral health are essential to smile to your heart’s content without shame.
This article discusses how you can take care of your child’s oral health so that they keep smiling.
The First Baby Smile
You have probably seen your little one smile while sleeping or when they feel tired, however, that can just be their reflex smile.
Their real smile appears between one and a half and three months of age.
This is an important baby milestone as it indicates that your child is ready to make sense of their world.
They can now understand human behavior and will smile only in response to a stimulus.
Hence, their brain development has started and their communication skills are also growing.
Hence when they start smiling (real smiles besides reflex smiles), your baby’s development begins.
Your baby will soon realize that smiling gets them your attention.
This is also a sign indicating that your child can now see properly.
Their vision and brain can now comprehend your face and now they have moved on from making reflex smiles to real ones.
They also get to know their importance and understand how their feelings and actions have an impact on others.
They build this connection by smiling when they are joyous and excited.
However, some children may take longer to smile than others.
That is nothing to worry about. A child’s developmental milestones differ for every baby.
They may even smile without you noticing to prevent stimulation overload.
Hence, they may not make eye contact with you while smiling.
However, you should keep trying to smile looking at them.
Make funny faces, play peek-a-boo, blow raspberries on their belly.
All this could make them laugh though stop when they start to look away to prevent overstimulation.
If your child was premature, then all their milestones might take longer than usual.
Hence, do not wait for 2 months to end for them to catch up. It can take even longer.
Once your baby smarts smiling and show signs of teeth then, you can start their oral care.
Start young to prevent decay!
How To Protect The Baby Smile of Your Child
Even before their baby teeth erupt, you should clean their toothless smile.
Not with a brush or toothpaste but with a clean warm washcloth.
Wipe a warm washcloth on their gums and clean it regularly.
This will prevent sugars from milk accumulating on the gum line.
Keep doing that till their first tooth erupts.
When it does, your child will go through some teething pain.
Beware of using homeopathic, uncertified gels to soothe their pain.
Rather give them a pacifier or something safe to gnaw on.
If you give your finger, then make sure your hands were clean.
Next, when their first tooth erupts, start cleaning it with a soft brush.
Your child should have good oral hygiene for them to smile confidently.
Not taking care of your teeth will result in poor teeth, lead to problems in the development of facial bones and jaw, and a bad bite.
Furthermore, it will also have an effect on nutrition and body image.
In worst cases, it can lead to infections and oral health diseases.
Hence, it is important to keep your child’s oral health in check from the beginning.
Do not let them sleep with their feeding bottle.
It could lead to baby bottle tooth decay.
The only thing they should drink at night before bed should be water.
Taking the bottle with them to sleep causes an accumulation of sugars on the teeth and gum line.
Hence, make sure that your infant does not sleep with the bottle.
What’s best is that they take breast milk for the first 12 months.
Breastfeeding prevents your child’s teeth from fluorosis among other benefits of providing antibodies and containing nutrients.
Formula milk combined with fluoridated water can cause white spots and streaks to appear on your child’s teeth.
If they appear on permanent teeth then they can last well into adulthood.
Though fluoride is important for your child, it is better to control its intake.
Now that a few of your child’s teeth have erupted, let’s find out what you should do to maintain your child’s precious smile.
Introduce Brushing and Flossing
Start brushing your baby’s teeth using a small and soft toothbrush.
When two teeth that touch erupt, you can also floss between them.
It can be harder to use a string floss with a child so you can try a water flosser instead.
Brush using a small manual toothbrush at first, when they get old enough to brush on their own, you can instill the habit of brushing teeth in them using an electric toothbrush.
You can begin by brushing their teeth using plain water or toothpaste without fluoride.
This is because children are at risk of swallowing fluoride which can worsen fluorosis and cause vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
When they are able to spit and develop swallowing reflexes then give them fluoride toothpaste just a size of a grain of rice.
When their permanent teeth appear, you can increase the size to that of a pea.
Fluoride is important hence, you should not completely forsake it fearing fluorosis.
In fact, not using fluoride will cause worse issues than using an excess of it.
These involve pain and proper dental treatment.
Yes, we are talking about cavities in kids and tooth decay.
Fluoride helps make tooth enamel stronger hence reducing the risk of a cavity.
When they will begin going to the dentist, they will get a fluoride varnish.
If your drinking water does not contain enough fluoride, consult with your dentist if you should get them oral fluoride supplements.
Do that only if their fluoride intake is much less than required.
Therefore, introduce the habit of brushing teeth and flossing early.
Teach them how to brush properly under the gum line, the back of the teeth and in circular motions.
Also, show them how to brush their tongue.
Supervise them at least till they are 7 years old.
Giving Proper Diet and Nutrition
In order to have good teeth and a bright smile, your child should have proper nutrition.
Having a high daily sugar intake, eating lots of junk and starchy foods and drinking soda can all affect their oral health.
Hence, you need to give them proper food that does not pose problems for their oral health.
Limit the intake of fruit juices and sodas and replace it with water.
Drinking water is really good for their oral health.
It keeps saliva flowing inside their mouth which helps to neutralize acids and reduce bacteria which can lead to plaque.
Fruit juices contain more sugars than the fruit itself.
It is completely fine to eat crunchy fruits and vegetables.
Though, cookies, chocolates, biscuits and chips are not as healthy.
In order to protect their smile, you should give them healthy proteins and fats rather than carbs.
These sugary and starchy foods provide a breeding ground for bacteria encouraging plaque accumulation.
You must be wondering what can plaque do?
It can stain the teeth and harden further to become tartar.
If you do not remove tartar then it can lead to gum disease and even cause tooth loss.
Hence, it is essential to give your children proper nutrition.
One way to do that is to involve them in the process of cooking so that they are excited to eat what they help in.
Restraining Bad Oral Habits
Bad oral habits can destroy your child’s teeth.
Hence, you need to stop them before they become more persistent.
These include the likes of:
- Thumb Sucking
- Using Sippy Cups
While thumb sucking is completely natural, your child should stop doing it by the time they are 3.
It can affect the roof of their mouth, lead to crowding and buck teeth.
Furthermore, they may also suffer from certain speech impediments such as developing a lisp.
If your child keeps sucking their fingers or thumb past the age of 3, then you should intervene.
Show them videos, give them health information, make them understand politely or use a hand stopper so that they get rid of this unhealthy habit which can destroy their teeth and smile.
Sippy Cups are essentially better than bottle feeding but regular use can swill around the sugars and acids constantly in the mouth.
Since it is easier for your child to carry it, they can keep it with them at all times.
Hence, this exposes them to to a risk of tooth enamel erosion.
While they are useful in transitioning from bottles to glass, limit the time your child uses a sippy cup to quickly get to normal glasses.
Keeping a Healthy Baby Smile
Infant smiles indicate social and emotional development.
Therefore, your child needs lots of smile and a happy face to grow properly.
Their social smile can come from interacting with others closely.
If your child does not smile at all, then you should seek medical advice.
Your child will smile more widely when they will be confident in their appearance.
Lack of dental hygiene and unhealthy oral habits can cause their teeth to become crooked, misaligned, with gaps and big.
This will inevitably hinder them from smiling to their heart’s content.
Hence, good oral care is important for them to show their baby smile confidently.