Great oral health begins from the moment you’re just a baby – with a little help, of course! While babies are busy developing their motor skills they are heavily reliant on you to help keep their mouths healthy and clean.
When welcoming a new child into the world we know there is a lot to navigate through, so to help we have put together some helpful tips on how to care for your baby’s teeth.
It’s a common question most parents ask, and generally babies’ teeth start to erupt (come through the gums) at about 6-9 months of age. This greatly varies from person to person; some children can start teething as early as 3 months or as late as 12 months. Typically, by the time your toddler is 3 years old all 20 deciduous teeth should be present, with 10 upper teeth and 10 lower teeth.
Although most babies don’t start teething until about 6-9 months, their teeth actually begin to form as buds in the first trimester of pregnancy. These teeth are also known as deciduous, primary or milk teeth.”
It’s important to establish a good oral health routine from an early age. Once a day following one of your baby’s feeding times we encourage you to use a clean damp, soft cloth (face washer, gauze), wrapped around your finger, to gently wipe clean your baby’s gums.
Also start to familiarise your baby/toddler with drinking water. Be sure to cool the water after boiling it, so that it is sterilised, and avoid adding fruit juice or other flavourings. Juice contains additives that are high in sugar and acid which can stimulate the bacteria in your child’s saliva and cause it to pool in their mouth – this can lead to early childhood dental decay.
If your baby has a pacifier, avoid putting it in your mouth. The bacteria that causes tooth decay can easily be transferred to your baby’s mouth.”
Once the first tooth has erupted it’s time to introduce your baby to the toothbrush. Hopefully by now they will be familiar with having their gums wiped and will adapt to the use of a small soft toothbrush.
Using only water on the toothbrush, gently brush the tooth/teeth using small circular motions. Brush the surface of the tooth up to where it meets the gum twice a day (after breakfast and after the last feed at night or bedtime). You might find you baby feels more secure if you cradle him/her whilst you practise their oral health care routine.
Just like your own toothbrush, make sure to replace your baby’s toothbrush every three months. If it helps to remember, change it with every season.
The use of toothpaste is normally introduced at about 18 months old. When it comes time to buying toothpaste choose a children’s toothpaste – it’s lower in fluoride and is milder in taste. Your child might still find it difficult to spit which means they may swallow tiny amounts of toothpaste. By using children’s toothpaste, it won’t cause them any harm if it is swallowed. Keep encouraging them to spit out any excess left behind.
If possible, avoid choosing a flavour that is sweet or fruity and ensure you only use a pea size amount on the toothbrush. In addition to brushing, start to familiarise your child with flossing once they have 2 or more teeth.
Help your kids play an active role in their oral health care routine by making this task fun. Create a game or play their favourite song for 2 minutes, even try brushing your teeth at the same time.
There are many products available in the market for your teething child. A cold, wet face washer is a great option and also cost effective. If you choose a teething ring make sure it is solid so that is can be put in the fridge and easily sterilised. It’s important to check the packaging to check it is BPA free.
When it comes to using pain relief, a sugar free option works best. Try introducing a drinking cup, with milk or water, at around 6 months old and hopefully by the age of 1 a bottle will be a thing of the past.
Begin visits to the dentist early! To help support a positive relationship with the dentist start familiarising your child by taking them along to your own dental appointments. They may choose to sit on your lap or become more acquainted with the dental environment. Even encourage them to have their own teeth looked, normally by the age of 1.
Other times at which your child should visit the dentist is if you notice any of the following changes:
We hope this offers some great insights in how you can best care for your baby's teeth. It's important for children to develop a positive attitude towards oral health from a young age to ensure their teeth will last a lifetime. For more information on any of the above, reach out to your local dentist. It's never too early to adopt great oral hygiene habits.