Why bother brushing baby teeth that will eventually fall out? It’s essential to take good care of your child’s teeth at an early age – and not just to establish healthy habits in the future.
Baby teeth not taken care of can result in poor nutrition and impede speech development. If baby teeth decay and fall out, they don’t hold the proper place for future teeth, making the permanent ones crooked.
What’s more, not every baby tooth has a permanent replacement. Sometimes, a baby’s tooth may be in a person’s mouth for their entire life. While not as common, you want to be sure you are taking care of your baby’s teeth from the very start!
When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?
Use a soft, damp washcloth or gauze pad to clean your baby’s gums and tongue after they eat. You can also use a finger brush designed for babies. Do this at least once during the day, preferably at bedtime or after their last bottle or nursing session.
Brushing your baby’s teeth should start as soon as their first tooth appears. Dentists who specialize in care for children’s teeth recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush moistened with water and a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste to keep your child’s teeth healthy. (make sure the brush has no more than three rows of bristles.) A kid’s dentist or local pharmacist can help you find finger brushes and a proper baby toothbrush.
If your toothbrush is older than two to four months, or the bristles are beginning to fray, it’s time for a new one. Bacteria can start to grow on old brushes.
Should I brush my baby’s gums?
From the beginning, pediatric dentists recommend cleaning your baby’s gums after feedings. This helps fight bacterial growth and sets the stage for good oral health long before the baby’s first teeth appear.
You can clean your baby’s gums with a soft, damp cloth or use a small, soft toothbrush designed specifically for infants. These rubber or silicone finger brushes have a nubby texture that babies usually like.
Can babies use fluoride toothpaste?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends using a cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste as soon as your baby’s first tooth appears rather than waiting until age 2, which was the previous suggestion.
For babies and toddlers, use a smear of toothpaste the size of a rice grain. By age 3, they can handle using a pea-size dollop.
If your baby accidentally ingests some of the toothpaste, don’t panic. A small amount won’t be harmful, and you can even teach your toddler to spit it out after brushing, starting in the second year.
How to teach your baby to brush
If your toddler or older baby seems interested in trying to brush her teeth, let her give it a shot (if she has the coordination and doesn’t just get frustrated). But make sure you follow up with a more thorough cleaning of your own before bed.
A fun, bright brush with her favorite character will encourage toothbrushing. Also, let her watch you as you take care of your teeth in the bathroom mirror, so she learns that this is a habit to keep for life.
What you can do if your baby hates toothbrushing
If you’re struggling to get your baby to accept teeth cleanings, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are a few things you can try:
Baby’s gums are sensitive, so if the brush is too rough, try using a soft washcloth instead.
Try singing to your baby while you brush their teeth–you might be surprised at how much more smiley they are after a quick distraction like that! Making up silly versions of songs they enjoy usually does the trick!
Give her a demonstration. Help make brushing your teeth fun by being enthusiastic about it and getting involved. “Great job, Dad! Now it’s your turn!”
Give her a chance to play with it. Your baby is likely curious about the toothbrush or finger brush. You’re encouraging that interest by letting her hold and explore the brush at her own pace. (Opt for a short-handled one with a stopper.) She might even end up putting it in her mouth herself!