Family dentists say that from the very first tooth, your baby will benefit from proper dental care. Your baby's primary teeth may be only a temporary tool for chomping, to be replaced during the early school years by his permanent pearls. However, it is no less important to take good care of them now and to establish the habits that will lead them toward a lifetime of dental health. Decayed or lost baby teeth can interfere with good nutrition and speech development, and by not holding a proper place for permanent teeth, they can make the permanent ones come in crooked.
When Should I Start Brushing My Baby's Teeth?
Tooth brushing can begin as soon as baby's first tooth pokes through the gums. Use a clean, damp washcloth, a gauze pad, or a finger brush to gently wipe clean the first teeth and the front of the tongue, after meals and at bedtime. Toothbrushes — moistened with water and no more than a rice-grain size smear of fluoride toothpaste — can also be used, however, they should be very soft and with no more than three rows of bristles (a family dentist such as Dr. Natalie Nechvatal can help you find the finger brushes and a proper baby toothbrush). Toss any toothbrushes that have become rough at the edges or that are more than two to four months old, because mouth bacteria can begin to build up.
Should I Brush My Baby's Gums?
Pediatric and family dentists recommend cleaning baby's gums after feedings, which helps fight bacterial growth and promotes good oral health, long before baby's first teeth start to appear. Rather than cleaning baby's gums with a toothbrush, try a soft, damp cloth, or even a soft rubber or silicone finger brush, both gentle options with a nubby texture babies tend to love.
Can Babies Use Fluoride Toothpaste?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste starting with baby's very first tooth, rather than waiting until age 2, as was previously recommended. Use a rice-grain-sized smear of toothpaste for your baby or toddler, graduating to a pea-sized dollop by age 3. Moreover, do not worry if your baby swallows some of the toothpaste - in such a small quantity, it won't cause any damage to the teeth. Starting in the second year, you can teach your toddler to spit after brushing.
Teaching Baby to Brush
Your older baby or toddler will probably want to try their hand at brushing themselves; let them give it a go, but be sure to follow up with a more thorough cleaning of your own, using a finger brush or gauze pad, before bed. Family dentists suggest to encourage interest in dental care, try a fun brush with a favorite character and bright color. Let them watch Mommy and Daddy take good care of their own teeth, so they learn it is a habit kept for life.
What to Do If Your Baby Hates Brushing Time?
Unfortunately, not every baby loves having their teeth cleaned — and when baby is teething and gums are sore and tender; they may be even more resistant. Here is what to try if tooth-brushing time becomes a struggle:
- Go easy: Baby's gums are sensitive (even when not teething), so if they do not seem to like the brush, try a soft washcloth and a gentle touch.
- Sing a song: For some babies, a little distraction is all it takes to make tooth brushing palatable. Sing a favorite tune while cleaning baby's teeth, or make up silly versions of standards.
- Show how it is done: Seeing mom or dad brushing — and enjoying it — helps make a game out of tooth-brushing time. "Mom goes first... now your turn!"
- Let them play: Your baby will probably be curious about the toothbrush or finger brush. Encourage her interest by allowing her to hold the brush and examine it at her own pace. She may even end up putting the brush in her mouth, all on her own.
How can Dr. Natalie Nechvatal help?
Dr. Natalie Nechvatal is accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and has extensive training with young patients as a Toledo Family Dentist. She stays up-to-date on the latest treatments for teeth, gums, and oral health. With Dr. Natalie’s guidance, your baby can be on the road to healthy brushing techniques that will last a lifetime.
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