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15 Must-Knows About The Baby's Mouth From Tongue-ties To Teeth

Those baby blues are enchanting; that perfect nose is reminiscent of a grandfather or distant cousin; but that mouth — that sweet little spot — is one of the most adorable and most important parts of a baby's face.

Baby's mouth is not only cute, but it's also the way she ingests her nutrition and let's her preferences known. It's the vehicle through which she shows her emotion, and the avenue for helping her grow and develop.

While those perfect pouty lips may mean a lot to mom and dad, it's the shape of the inside of the mouth that can make the difference for a good latch and abnormalities can interfere with speech. The teeth and the tongue play a big part in shaping the baby's livelihood and life, and a pacifier in the mouth could help save baby's life while also creating a bad habit.

The mouth tells secrets — from the bacteria in the mother to revealing syndromes that could affect baby's health. And the symptoms can be painful and irritating. Baby's mouth is where you learn about her quirks and where you see her smile. It's an important part of the face, and a sweet spot to focus on.

Here are 15 must-knows about the baby's mouth — from tongue-ties to teeth.

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15 Shape Situation

The first thing to know about your sweet little one's mouth is how to feed it. Within the first hour of life, your baby will want to eat, and for many women that means figuring out how to breastfeed (about 70 percent of new moms try breastfeeding). While babies have a natural instinct to crawl to their mother's breast, they may not know how to achieve the perfect latch, and even experienced moms can struggle in the first few attempts.

Sometimes the shape of the baby's mouth can affect breastfeeding. The baby could have a high arched palate or a cleft palate; the tongue could also cause problems, as could any abnormalities in the chin or jaw. In many cases, lactation consultants or doctors can help a mother and baby figure out how to get through the issue, such as trying a different position or using a special breast shield. Preemies often have trouble sucking at first, as well.

A baby with a mouth issue may have trouble breastfeeding, but that's OK, and bottle feeding is nothing to be ashamed of. Doctors will help in figuring out how to get the baby fed and growing.

14 Natal Teeth

When a baby is born, while mom is concentrating on breastfeeding, every once in a while something gets in the way — teeth. Natal teeth, as they are called, happen in about 1 percent of babies.

Sometimes they come with other issues in the mouth like cleft palate or they can be an indication of a condition. There seems to be a genetic component too, because sometimes it happens in generations, and malnutrition during pregnancy could also be a cause.

Sometimes the teeth have no roots at all, and sometimes they have barely broken throught the gums. Often, just one tooth comes outh, but every once in a while a baby is born with several teeth in place. If your baby is born with a loose tooth, there is a big risk of it coming out and choking the little one, but if it isn't doctors may just leave it alone.

13 Tongue-tie

Your sweet little newborns mouth may look perfect, but sometimes there is a tiny flap of skin that can cause a bit of trouble with eating. Some skin connects your baby's tongue to the bottom of the mouth. It's called a frenulum, and in about 4 percent of babies that skin can be too short or it can connect too far to the front of the tongue. That's called a tongue-tie, and it can come in various severities.

Sometimes, babies have no problem adjusting to the structure, and sometimes it actually corrects itself. But at other times it can limit the movement of the tongue, and it can make it hard to latch on while breastfeeding. Later it can cause issues with speech and with simple things like licking an ice cream cone.

Talk to your doctor if your baby is having a problem. There is a simple easy procedure called a frenotomy that basically includes snipping the skin with scissors. You might even be able to have it done in the doctor's office. Like we mentioned earlier, sometimes the skin stretches and the movement will be freer within a few weeks, so you may not have to rush to the procedure, but it if your newborn isn't gaining weight, you will have to figure out a way to get him fed.

12 Sense Of Taste

Your baby's sense of taste develops long before he is born. Taste buds are part of the nervous system, which begins developing during the eighth week of pregnancy. By week 16, your baby's taste buds are fully developed, and your baby begins swallowing amniotic fluid, which allows for the first taste.

Many people believe that if you want to keep your baby from being a picky eater, that starts with the mom's diet during pregnancy. She should provide a variety of vitamins and minerals to help with the baby's development but also to give the baby a taste of different kinds of food. Strong flavors like garlic and curry are especially distinct in the amniotic fluid. And you may find that your favorite food becomes your baby's favorite food when they are older.

Most babies start to eat solid foods between 4 and 6 months old, although some moms prefer to wait until babies have some teeth and can pick up foods with their own little fingers. Remember the old adage: food before 1 is just for fun. Be sure to give your baby a variety of tastes, watch for allergies and continue to nourish your baby through breastmilk or formula.

11 Smile

As a baby sleeps, mom and dad love to watch. At first, they are checking to make sure they see baby breathing — at least in the first few weeks of life — but after that, they could watch for hours to catch a glimpse of a sweet smile.

It isn't quite true that a baby doesn't smile in the first few weeks of life. You can sometimes catch a baby's grin, especially when they are asleep. There isn't any real emotion behind it, just a reflex at that point. But it's still an amazing moment to capture.

The first true smiles begin when the baby is about 6 weeks old. Those smiles come in response to another smile, an imitation. Quickly, baby gets the hang of it and those smiles become social responses. Your baby will smile at silly sounds or at other stimuli. And pretty soon, parents will do anything to make that smile spread across her face — from hours-long games of peekaboo to tickles.

It can take a while for some babies to get the hang of the social smile, but if your baby hasn't smiled by 12 weeks, you should talk to a doctor.

10 Thrush

Nearly all babies have a fungus in their mouth called Candida, but for some, the substance can cause a problem and turn into thrush. It can also be transmitted from the mother while breastfeeding.

It causes white sores in the mouth or on the tongue. It can be on the roof of the mouth or on the cheeks. Many babies have a white look to their tongue because of the milk or formula they drink, but thrush doesn't wipe off like milk does. It can become so severe that it hurts to eat and swallow, which can cause problems for keeping up with your baby's growth.

There are oral medications that can take care of the infection pretty quickly, although the mother's nipples may also have to be treated as well to get rid of all of the fungus. It's pretty common and usually isn't a cause for worry. Talk to your pediatrician, and your baby should be fine soon.

9 Epstein Pearls

When your baby is a couple of months old, you may notice something that looks like little tiny teeth buds in her mouth. It may be way too early for actual teeth, but the little nodules are actually called Epstein pearls or gingival cysts. The cysts are painless, and they happen for about 80 percent of babies.

It's related to mucus membranes that become trapped in the pockets of the skin when your baby's mouth is formed in utero. They usually go away on their own, and in some cases you may not even notice them. Whereas your baby will cry out in pain when teething, he won't have an issue with his Epstein pearls, and they won't interfere with nursing or bottle-feeding.

Moms shouldn't worry. In fact, those little cysts will actually help keep dirt and microbes from getting into baby's gums. They will be gone before you know it, so enjoy the cute little smile that comes with the little unexpected pearly whites.

8 Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

One of the most common ailments in young children is called hand, foot and mouth disease. The official name is Coxsackie virus, but it is commonly referred to by the other name because that describes how it is spread.

The illness starts with a fever and a sore throat. Then sores or blisters happen in the mouth and a skin rash spreads to the hands and the soles of the feet. It can also be on the knees, elbows or bottom/genital area.

The disease spreads pretty easily from person to person, and adults can show no symptoms but still spread the disease. Be sure to wash your hands really good, and stay home. The illness is caused by a virus, so there aren't many medicines that can help, although over-the-counter medicines could help with the fever and pain, and certain mouthwashes can help numb the sores in the mouth.

7 Cleft Palate

 

Sometimes, baby's mouth isn't fully developed during his time in the womb, and there may be a part missing. If the roof of your baby's mouth isn't fully in place at birth, that is known as having a cleft palate. Researchers haven't fully figured out the cause, but they believe that the issue develops when viruses or chemicals are introduced during a certain stage of development. There also seems to be a genetic component, as a sibling of a child with a cleft palate is more likely to have one herself.

With an opening in the roof of the mouth, feeding can be difficult, although special bottles can help in keeping the flow of the food downward instead of up and out the nose. Kids with cleft palates can also have problems with ear infections and with their speech and teeth. While babies with cleft palates typically have surgery when they are young, it often has to be repeated as the child grows. A team of doctors will follow the baby's care over the years to help them remain healthy and help improve speech.

6 Cleft Lip

Similarly, a baby can also be born with a cleft lip, which means that part of the skin and tissue are missing. Because the lip and the palate develop separately in the womb, sometimes kids with can have one or the condition, or they can have both.

For cleft lip alone, taking care of the problem is easier and there are fewer repercussions for speech and infections. Babies typically have surgery at about 3 months old, and if the cleft is extensive, they may have to go back for additional surgeries.

Dental care is really important for kids with cleft lips and palates, and if necessary specially shaped toothbrushes can help in taking care of the teeth. Orthodontia may be necessary as well, and parents should talk to a specialist before the teeth even come in.

The surgeries for cleft lips and palates have improved greatly over the years, and now children can have a great prognosis and may achieve a normal appearance in the end.

5 Tonsils

Your baby's throat can attract all kinds of illnesses, but many times the tonsils will help keep the germs from getting too bad. If they are especially bad, though, they could the best of the tonsils as well.

The infection could make it difficult for your child to swallow, and her throat will be raw and red. She may pull on her ears or refuse to eat, and her sweet little cry could sound hoarse and harsh. Your baby could even have a hard time getting sleep and may snore. Alongside the fever could be excess drool and some pretty gnarly breath.

A doctor can easily diagnose tonsilitis by the white patches on the tonsils, although he may send out a culture to see if she has strep throat, which can often cause the inflammation.

Consider trying some cold or hot liquids, and talk to your doctor about an over-the-counter fever reducer. Depending on age, it may be hard to get your child to suck on a throat lozenge without swallowing it. Tonsillectomies are less common these days, although if your child has a persistent tonsil issue, your doctor may talk about it. For now, try to keep your child comfortable, and hopefully she will feel better soon.

4 Drool

At just a few months old, you will find that some babies seem to have as much coming out of their mouths as in. We're not talking about spit up, although that can be excessive for some little ones; sometimes your baby practically gives himself his own bath with all the drool that comes out of him.

Drooling is a very common trait for a baby, whether he is teeting or not. Sometimes, it's just a matter of getting the hang of swallowing, and when those teeth are coming in, the faucet gets turned on even more.

Some babies who have issues with reflux have excessive drool. The saliva can help take out the acidity in their stomach lining, although not all of it gets down their throat, as you know from the number of bibs you go through in a day.

Be careful that your baby doesn't choke on his drool, and clean his face and neck well to try to avoid rashes. Pretty soon, things will start to dry up.

3 Pacifier Question

Some women fret about whether to give their baby a pacifer, but the hospital may pop one in before the end of the baby's first day. There are pros and cons to using a pacifer, so it is something parents should think about before the baby is born.

First, it won't affect your baby's mouth, at least not in the first year or two, so don't make that part of the equation. Babies have an oral fixation from the very beginning, and pacifiers are a natural soother in the same way that mama's breast can provide comfort. It does work to help baby feel better, and it actually can reduce the risk of SIDS.

But there are downsides to using a pacifier. The biggest is the habit that can be hard to break. It can become a crutch for a parent to use to make baby happy, and it can be tough for a 2-year-old to let go of his favorite thing. Some people believe that pacifiers can interfere with breastfeeding and create nipple confusion, but many babies have no problems making use of both.

After the second birth, there can be issues with your child's bite, if he continues to use his binky, so you should try to wean before that point. It can also be linked to ear infections, so if your child has frequent illnesses, you should consider throwing the pacifer away.

2 Canker Sores

If your baby seems to be irritated by a spot in her mouth, it could be a canker sore. Canker sores aren't very common for infants, but they run in families, so they aren't usual for some little ones. They aren't contagious, and they are more likely to happen when something breaks the skin, which isn't so common when you don't have teeth yet. It has also been linked to food allergies and dietary issues such as low iron, zinc or B12.

Canker sores are hard on adults, so they could especially annoy your baby. If she is big enough to eat solid foods, you should think about what she eats for the next few days. Acidic things like citrus and spicy foods could irritate the sore. Try something cold like an ice pop. You can also try putting teething gel on the sore because it usually has a numbing agent in it. Breastmilk can also help with the healing.

Canker sores usually go away in a few days, so hopefully the baby won't suffer long. Cold sores, on the other hand, are related to the herpes simplex virus and require a doctor's care. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor.

1 Teeth

One of the most exciting milestones during the first year of a baby's life is when he gets his first tooth. The little chompers start to come in somewhere between four months and seven months, and while mom and dad are excited to see them, the process of erupting teeth is pretty painful.

Teeth are actually formed while the baby is still in the womb, but they remain underneath the gums for a while. The first to peek through are usually the bottom teeth.

To help a teething baby, try putting a damp washcloth in the freezer for a bit and then letting your little one chew on it. Frozen fruit or even bagels are also favorites once your baby has a handle on solid foods. Teething topical creams usually help numb the pain a bit as well, and you can expect your baby to chew on just about everything in sight — from your finger to the side of the crib — to get a little relief.

All of the baby teeth are usually in around the second birthday, and around age 6 your child will start to lose his baby teeth and get his permanent ones.

Sources: American Dental Association, What to Expect, KidsHealth, Mayo Clinic, Healthy Children, WebMD, Cleft Lip and Palate Association, Parents, Medical News Today, Baby Center, FamilyDoctor.orgWhat to Expect, Parenting, Healthline, Parents

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