Many parents don’t often think about dental care for their babies, but it’s never too early to start good oral health practices. Most dentists recommend that parents start cleaning their infant’s gums even before the first tooth erupts because the primary teeth are already lurking below the gums. Once those teeth start to come in, you want to know when — and how — you should start brushing your baby’s teeth.
Why Take Care of Baby Teeth?
You might wonder why it’s so important to take care of primary teeth, even though your child will lose them. Baby teeth are vital to your child’s ability to chew healthy food, to speak and to smile. Healthy baby teeth are needed for age-appropriate developmental milestones. As the forerunners to your child’s permanent teeth, baby teeth help save space for them in the jaw.
Appropriate Oral Care for Your Baby: When to Start Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth
Setting your baby up for lifelong oral health success starts as soon as they are born. Here’s what to expect.
From 0- to 3-Months-Old
Most babies will start getting teeth around the age of six months, but prior to that, you can use a soft, wet washcloth to wipe their gums. This will help remove any bacteria — and it gets them used to having their mouth brushed from an early age.
When the First Tooth Erupts
You can start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they erupt. We recommend that you brush at least twice a day. Be sure one of those times is after their last meal and before going to bed so they don’t go to sleep with food or milk sitting in their mouths. You can gradually progress from using a soft cloth to a toothbrush with soft bristles. This is also a good time to schedule your baby’s first visit with the dentist.
From 12- to 18-Months-Old
As more and more teeth come in, it’s essential that you establish good oral hygiene habits. When your child has two teeth that touch, you may also consider using children’s floss. Talk to your dentist about best practices for flossing your baby’s teeth, including what age they recommend you start, based on your child’s teeth.
How To Brush Your Baby’s Teeth
Use a damp toothbrush with soft bristles to make gentle circles on the front, back and top surfaces of all of your baby’s teeth. Don’t forget to brush at the gumline. You may want to use a tiny amount of toothpaste with fluoride that is designed for young children. Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes.
Help your child tilt their mouth downward to help the toothpaste dribble out of their mouth. Encourage your child to try to spit out the toothpaste as soon as they are old enough to do so. Your little one may not be thrilled with the process, so you can try some tricks to make the experience more pleasant for everyone. Here are some suggestions:
- Introduce a fun song to help the two minutes of brushing pass by quickly. For example, you could sing “Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth” to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” You can also use a timer your child can watch to count down the time.
- Try an electric toothbrush that lights up to make the activity a bit more exciting. These are usually designed to run for two minutes. So, you won’t have to watch the length of time your child is brushing. Take your child shopping, and let them pick out the brush they’d like to use. You can let them pick out their favorite flavor of toothpaste, as well.
- Take turns with brushing, letting your child brush their own teeth some of the time. Most toddlers love to do new things independently. So, this will make brushing more interesting for them. Just be sure you supervise well and do enough of the brushing to ensure their teeth are clean.
- Give them rewards or create a chart with stickers you can give your child for brushing consistently. This can be a great motivator for kids.
- Make brushing a family affair. Children learn by example, and if they see you brushing, they will be more apt to want to brush their teeth as well.
Other Ways To Protect Your Baby’s Oral Health
In addition to brushing, there are other ways to help protect your baby’s oral health. Some of these include:
- Don’t let your baby go to bed with a bottle of anything other than water. This exposes your baby’s teeth to bacteria which can lead to cavities.
- Make sugar an occasional treat only. Too much sugar is not only unhealthy, but it can lead to tooth decay.
- Limit the amount of juice your baby drinks. The sugar can cause cavities, and the calories can suppress your child’s appetite for meals.
- Visit the dentist regularly. Taking your child to the dentist for routine visits at an early age can help them get used to the sights, sounds and smells of the dental office. This can help ensure they do not grow up with anxiety about the dentist.
Contact West Coast Dental
We are here to help create good oral health habits with your child. Let us know if you have questions about when to start brushing your baby’s teeth. We have multiple locations and are ready to serve all your pediatric dental needs. Book your appointment today.
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