When it comes to dental care, you may be wondering: how early is too early to start brushing? And when does it become important to establish dental care?
No need to worry, mama—we’ve got you covered on care, from gums to those sweet baby teeth.
Cleaning your Baby’s Gums
Experts agree: tooth brushing can start even before your baby’s first tooth bud peeks through. You don’t have to wait for those pearly whites to focus on oral hygiene. In fact, the sooner you start being aware of your baby’s oral care needs, the better.
Here’s how to get started:
- Begin with gum health. Pediatric dentists recommend cleaning with a silicone gum brush (you can also use a wet cloth) to softly massage in your baby’s mouth. You can find both nubby gum massagers and child-sized toothbrushes at any big box store in the dental aisle. Many of these tools also come in fun shapes and colors, like a banana, to make it more fun for little ones.
- Wipe away germs. Wiping gently helps get rid of bacteria that stick on to gums, so be sure to wipe in the cavity between baby’s gums and lower lip where there is a pocket.
- Be gentle. Consider your baby’s responses as you engage. Make it fun: hum a silly song or using a colorful gum massager. Who says oral hygiene can’t be a bonding experience?
Teething is Tough
Is your baby teething? Teething can be a difficult time for both mom and baby—babies are usually fussier than normal and have tender, swollen gums.
To help make your baby more comfortable, offer a clean and cold teething ring to help pacify and comfort their gums. For pain relief, topical pain relievers can be rubbed on the gums, but make sure you talk to your pediatrician first. Avoid topical items that contain benzocaine, which should not be used for teething.
Your pediatrician may also recommend over-the-counter baby Tylenol (Acetaminophen) to relieve pain, but make sure you don’t give your baby aspirin, as this can be dangerous.
Brushing your Baby’s Teeth
Once your baby gets one of their pearly whites, you can move on to a new level of brushing. To brush your baby’s teeth, follow these steps:
- Start by moistening a toothbrush with a small amount of water. You can also use a rice-sized amount of baby toothpaste if you’d prefer (graduate to a pea-sized amount when your child hits age 3). Maneuver a soft gauze or baby toothbrush to gently wipe the teeth after your baby has their feeding.
- Try to make sure you brush your baby’s teeth at least twice a day. You can brush at bedtime and after they’ve had sugary-liquids in their sippy cup like milk.
- If your baby isn’t able to spit yet, make sure help your baby angle their face over the sink so that they can allow any dribble to come out with extra toothpaste. You can also help wipe their face with a washcloth. Tell them you’re proud of them! Remember, every step is a new learning experience for baby.
As your child gets older, they may want to do a few things themselves. You can assist while they smear a tiny amount of toothpaste on their toothbrush, so choose a brush that has a wide base for little hands unused to fine motor skills.
The Importance of Oral Health
Brushing your baby’s teeth can help keep breast milk and/or formula from causing decay inside your baby’s little mouth. Breast milk and formula contain sugars that can stick to teeth. The important thing is to wash off food and build-up. Do this regularly. Avoid giving your child fruit juices – and of course, soda – as these lead to tooth decay and loss of teeth when given regularly.
There are many reasons to focus on brushing your baby’s teeth. As a mom, you’re likely familiar with avoiding tooth decay, and with developing good personal hygiene. But decayed or lost teeth –even baby teeth—can causes issues later on. For instance, poor dental health can affect speech development, as well as nutrition. But that’s not all. Baby teeth are placeholders for more permanent adult teeth. If a baby doesn’t have all of their teeth, it may cause permanent teeth to come in crooked.
When should you seek professional advice? A dentist can help establish dental care as part of a life-long habit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that by 12 months of age, a child be seen by a dentist about every six months. And you should always talk to your dentist about your baby’s specific dental needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I schedule my baby’s first dental appointment?
Your baby’s first dental appointment is an important milestone. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that by 12 months of age, a child be seen by a dentist about every six months. This also depends on your baby’s individual history and current level of oral care. Ask your dentist for more details on how to keep up your baby’s dental care.
Do I need to brush my baby’s teeth after each feeding?
Yes, it’s important to brush your baby’s teeth after each feeding (or at least twice a day). It shouldn’t take long! Remember, bacteria can leave behind sticky plaque that damages teeth when left on for too long. Here’s what to do: set aside a few minutes after each feeding to play with your baby and use a soft brush to wipe the gums and/or teeth clean.
Which toothpaste is best for babies?
Generally, you don’t need to use a toothpaste with fluoride until your baby’s teeth push through, so water is just fine until then. Once your baby has teeth, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends switching to a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Remember: a really tiny amount of toothpaste, as in a rice-sized smear, is all you need.