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Dental Problems in Infants

Although infants have few, if any, teeth, there are a few types of dental conditions that may affect your baby. While most of these problems can be treated at home, sometimes they may require the care of a dentist or other health care professional.

Natal Teeth

You expect to see nothing but gums when you look into your newborn’s mouth. Although uncommon, some babies are actually born with one or more teeth already in their mouth, called natal teeth. These teeth are often attached to the gum by soft tissue and don’t have a root structure. Natal teeth are most often on the lower gum and may cause irritation to the baby’s tongue or to a nursing mother.

If the teeth are loose enough that they might be accidentally swallowed, your baby’s doctor may decide to remove the teeth. This is usually done before your baby leaves the hospital.

If the teeth are not removed, clean the teeth and gums with a damp cloth after each feeding. Keep an eye on the teeth and your baby’s gums and tongue to make sure that the teeth are not causing pain. If you notice any redness or pain, call your baby’s doctor.

Thrush

If you notice small, white spots on the inside of your baby’s mouth or on the tongue, it could be thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection that is common in infants and is caused when there is an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida.

Often, thrush in infants does not need to be treated at all and will go away on its own. But if your baby refuses to eat or nurse, or seems cranky, call your baby’s doctor for treatment.

If you are nursing, the thrush in your baby’s mouth can be passed to your nipples or breasts. If you suddenly develop pain while nursing or your nipples become cracked, flaky, shiny, or sore, call your doctor for treatment. He or she will most likely treat both you and your baby so that the thrush does not spread again.

Teething

Most parents are familiar with teething—the process of your baby’s first teeth coming in through the gums at around age 6 months.

Although teething is a normal part of your infant’s development, each baby reacts differently to this stage. While some babies don’t have any symptoms, some common symptoms you may notice include:

  • Drooling more than usual

  • Acting fussy or irritable

  • Having a smaller-than-usual appetite

  • Diarrhea, a fever, or a rash

Your baby may have sore gums while his or her teeth are starting to come through. You can help soothe sore gums by rubbing a cool spoon, a wet washcloth, or your clean finger over them. Or try offering your baby a chilled teething ring or pacifier. Your baby’s doctor or dentist may also suggest a salve to help numb your baby’s gums.

“Natal Teeth.” MedlinePlus. National Institutes of Health, February 22, 2012. www.nlm.nih.gov/MEDLINEPLUS/ency/article/003268.htm. Accessed 2013.

“Breastfeeding: Common Breastfeeding Challenges.” Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/common-challenges/. Accessed 2013.

“Thrush.” MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health, October 6, 2012. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000626.htm. Accessed 2013.

“Dental Care for Your Baby.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. http://d27vj430nutdmd.cloudfront.net/17242/64415/64415.1.pdf. Accessed 2013.

“Teething.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/teething. Accessed 2013.

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