Your baby’s first tooth can show up as early as three months and as late as one year! So instilling proper health and hygiene at a young age is essential to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy choices.
Shockingly, according to the CDC, 1 in 5 or 20% of children ages 5-11 have untreated tooth decay. Tooth decay leads to problems in school, behavioral issues, and overall poor health. Therefore, it is essential to begin “brushing” and make dental care part of their daily routine.
But how do you know when to start and how to brush your baby’s teeth? This article has everything you need to know about beginning a healthy dental routine with your little one!
When Should I Start Brushing My Baby’s Teeth?
As soon as you see the first little bud poke through their gums, you can begin brushing your baby’s teeth. All you need to start is a warm, wet washcloth and your finger. Next, gently rub your baby’s tooth with a damp washcloth to wipe their teeth clean after meals and before bed.
If desired, you can also use an infant finger brush. Finger brushes are small, texturized rubber brushes that go over your index finger. Once your baby has a few teeth, pediatric dentists recommend using a soft-bristled brush designed specifically for infants and water. There is no need to use toothpaste until after your baby’s first birthday!
Brushing Baby’s Gums
Before your baby has teeth, you can brush their gums. In addition, it is recommended by pediatric dentists to clean your baby’s gums after each feeding. Cleaning their gums promotes healthy dental habits and fights potential bacterial growth in the mouth.
Like brushing their teeth, all you need to do is use your finger and a clean, damp washcloth or a finger brush. Massaging their gums with a damp washcloth will also soothe their gums if your baby happens to be teething.
When Can My Baby Use Toothpaste?
In addition to brushing, using fluoride is the best thing you can do to prevent cavities. Young children should not be allowed to brush their teeth unsupervised in case they swallow toothpaste. However, you do not need to be alarmed if they swallow a small amount when brushing, as that is typical. If your child is under two, speak with their dentist about when to begin using toothpaste.
Generally, children between two and six years old can use a pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste. However, they should be encouraged to spit it out and not swallow. You can also go to the CDC’s website: “My Water’s Flouride” and check for the fluoride levels in your water supply.
Tips to Make Brushing Go Easier
Some babies may love the experience of having their gums and teeth cleaned; others will hate it! If your baby belongs to the latter group, there are a few things you can do to make teeth brushing more fun. Even if your baby seems to enjoy the sensation of brushing their teeth, you can try these tricks out to keep it fun as they grow!
- Sing a song as you brush to distract them
- Brush gently; you may be rubbing too hard, and it is uncomfortable for them.
- Let them hold their own brush and try it out; babies are curious by nature, so encourage that curiosity.
- Teach them how to do it, and once old enough, allow them to brush on their own. You can then follow up with additional cleaning.
- Encourage them to brush their baby doll or teddy bear’s teeth. They may like being the “grown-up” and taking care of their baby.
When Should My Baby Visit the Dentist?
You may be surprised to hear that your baby should visit a dentist within six months of their first tooth appearing, which usually happens around six months old. At the latest, you should take your child to see the dentist around their 1st birthday.
The American Dental Association recommends you take your baby to see a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists have specialized training in working with babies and children, and their offices are equipped to accommodate smaller patients.
Tips to Prevent Tooth Decay
It is an unfortunate truth that many children in the U.S. suffer from unnecessary, untreated, and preventable tooth decay. As soon as your baby has a tooth, it is prone to developing a cavity; that is why starting healthy oral hygiene habits young is vital.
Many parents wonder why they need to worry about tooth decay in baby teeth if they will be replaced by adult teeth in a few years. However, tooth decay at any age is painful. In addition, it can lead to other health problems, problems eating, and impact your child’s general wellbeing.
Unfortunately, some people are more prone to tooth decay than others based on their genetics. Still, there are things you can do to lessen your child’s chances of experiencing a cavity.
- Avoid sugary drinks and foods. Not only are they not healthy for your baby, but they are one of the number one causes of tooth decay in children.
- Brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day. If possible, brush after each meal.
- Set a good example by brushing your teeth with your child.
- By their first birthday, take them to the dentist and maintain regular dental checkups.
- Make toothbrushing fun by singing songs, using a timer, and getting a fun toothbrush.
Teaching your little one how to brush their teeth can be a fun experience for both you and your child. Good oral hygiene promotes an overall healthy lifestyle, and it is one of the earliest ways to teach your baby about maintaining a healthy body. While some babies may enjoy the process more than others, you will have no problem creating a tooth brushing routine with your baby. All you need is a bit of patience and the tips mentioned above!