Once your baby’s first teeth begin to appear, then you should begin cleaning them very carefully, at least twice a day. The naturally occurring bacteria in your baby’s mouth change sugars from his food (including natural sugars) into acid. The enamel of your baby’s teeth may then be attacked by this acid.
Brushing baby’s teeth – why are baby teeth important?
It is as important to care for your baby’s first teeth as it is to care for their permanent teeth when they are older. Yes – their baby teeth will fall out, but in the meantime they serve some important functions…
- Baby teeth are responsible for “reserving” spaces for the permanent teeth to grow into. When baby teeth are lost, it can cause the permanent teeth to shift – and this can cause orthodontic problems as your child grows.
- Your baby needs their milk teeth in order to learn to speak correctly and clearly.
- Your baby’s milk teeth are necessary for biting and chewing.
- If your child loses too many baby teeth, it can affect his confidence once they reach pre-school. Sadly, children can be very unkind when it comes to pointing out differences in others.
Brushing baby’s teeth – tips for choosing a toothbrush
As soon as baby’s first tooth erupts, it’s time to buy a good toothbrush. The best type to use at first is a long handled brush with a small head. This design makes it easy to reach all areas of your baby’s mouth.
Your baby’s toothbrush should have rounded, soft filaments. You should replace it every 10-12 weeks, or sooner if the filaments become splayed.
Another option is to use a specially designed infant toothbrush that fits over your finger. Some babies seem to prefer this type… but beware! If your baby is a biter, a toothbrush of this type offers your vulnerable finger very little protection!
As your baby grows and wants to hold the brush themselves, then it’s a good idea to buy them one with a chunky handle. This will be easier to hold – but, of course, you will still need to do the majority of the brushing yourself!
Brushing baby’s teeth – toothpaste and fluoride
It isn’t absolutely essential to use toothpaste to clean your baby’s teeth – the brushing action itself is actually the most important part of keeping them clean.
Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel of teeth. However, too much of it can cause fluorosis, which is a condition where white spots can appear on the permanent teeth. If you use an adult toothpaste to brush your baby’s teeth, which contains the amount of fluoride recommended for adults, you run the risk of him developing fluorosis. This is because babies tend to swallow rather a lot of toothpaste during brushing and are thereby swallowing excess fluoride.
Tips for brushing baby’s teeth
- If your baby won’t open their mouth when it’s time to brush their teeth, then try putting a brush in YOUR mouth – babies love to mimic whatever Mum is doing!
- Open your mouth wide and sing a musical scale (we recommend trying this one in the privacy of your bathroom). They will either try to copy your singing – or they will laugh – but either way, they will have opened their mouth!
- Sit your baby in the most comfortable position for both of you – try standing or sitting behind your baby as they look up. This is an excellent position to adopt, because it makes it very easy to reach all parts of his mouth.
- Be gentle – it isn’t necessary to brush firmly at this stage and it may just put your baby off having his teeth brushed altogether!
Brushing baby’s teeth – visiting the dentist
Your baby has their first sparkling new tooth – but is it really necessary to visit the dentist this early?
No, you should certainly take him for a dental check-up at some point during his first year.
This gives your baby’s dentist an opportunity to spot potential problems at an early stage and also to decide upon a good prevention program. Plus, it helps get your baby accustomed to the sights and sounds of the dentist’s office and can prevent them from becoming anxious about dental visits in the future.