Many parents mistakenly believe their baby’s teeth don’t matter because they’ll fall out anyway.
However, even if a tooth with a cavity falls out it can leave infections and abscesses behind. Baby teeth also act as placeholders for adult teeth, so if they aren’t healthy, the adult teeth may become crooked or crowded. Establishing good dental hygiene habits early is essential for lifelong oral health. So exactly what kind of attention do your baby’s teeth need?
When Should You Start Brushing Baby Teeth?
You should start brushing your baby’s teeth from the moment they appear. This will usually occur around six months of age. You don’t need to wait until the tooth pushes right through the gum. Whenever a tooth becomes visible, it’s ready for your care.
Before the teeth appear, you should tend to your baby’s gums after every feeding. Wiping the gums down with a damp cloth or soft finger brush will inhibit bacterial growth and promote good dental health.
How Often Do Baby Teeth Need Brushing?
Many experts suggest parents should get into the habit of brushing their baby’s teeth and gums twice a day, every day. The first brushing should occur after breakfast and the second just before bedtime, so your baby goes to sleep with a clean mouth.
If your baby is very resistant to teeth brushing, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says you can drop the brushing back to once daily before bedtime.
How Do You Brush Baby Teeth?
You can brush your baby’s teeth with a toothbrush designed for babies or toddlers. This will have soft bristles on a small head and a large handle for easy maneuverability. Alternatively, you could use a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad or a soft rubber or silicone finger brush to gently wipe your baby’s teeth clean. If a tooth has pushed through, make sure you clean the front and back.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends adding a tiny dot of fluoride toothpaste, the size of a grain of rice, to your preferred teeth-cleaning tool. This will help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities.
Babies’ gums are very sensitive, even if they’re not teething. If your baby fusses with a brush, he or she may feel more comfortable with a soft washcloth, which allows you to more easily control the pressure.
You should brush your baby’s teeth until he or she can hold a toothbrush. Older babies often want to try to brush their own teeth. This should be encouraged because letting your child take responsibility for oral health establishes good dental habits early. However, you should follow your child’s own efforts up with a more thorough cleaning of your own.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends complementing brushing with an appointment with a pediatric dentist when your baby’s first tooth comes through. Your baby should see a dentist no later than his or her first birthday.
Never underestimate the importance of giving your baby’s teeth proper care. Follow this advice to set your child on a path of lifelong oral health.
Image via Flickr by Jeroen_Wolfers