Oral care for babies starts well before your baby’s first tooth erupts.
When to start brushing baby’s teeth for the first time varies from child to child. Most babies tend to get their first tooth sometime between months 4-7, while others are even earlier or later.
Read more about kids’ teeth, tooth eruption and tooth loss timelines.
With early brushing and oral hygiene, you’re setting your child up for a lifetime of having a healthy smile. Starting oral hygiene habits early can help your little one avoid common dental problems like cavities, abscessed teeth, or even dental anxiety.
Fortunately, most dental problems are preventable. When you set the standard for caring for your baby’s teeth as early as possible, you’re providing them with the best chance of a cavity-free smile in the future.
Before Your Baby Has Teeth
As initially mentioned, infant dental care starts before any teeth erupt. Our Ottawa family dentist recommends using a clean, soft washcloth over your finger to rub and massage your baby’s gums after each feeding. Alternately, if you prefer, you can use a fingertip brush that slips over your finger with small, plastic “bristles” on the end of it. They’re easy to use, especially in tiny mouths. If your baby is beginning the teething process, they might even enjoy chewing on it, too.
Cleaning your baby’s mouth after they eat will help them transition more easily to using a toothbrush once their teeth start to erupt.
Brushing Baby Teeth
Learning how to brush baby teeth is a simple process. First, you’ll need a fingertip brush or a small “training” toothbrush with a relatively small head. You can clean your baby’s teeth with tap water or a rice-grain sized smear of toothpaste. Focus on one or two teeth at a time, making soft, circular strokes across the entire tooth and gumline. Be sure to clean the front, back, and chewing surfaces.
Since your baby’s lower front teeth are the first ones to erupt, brushing all of their teeth is fairly simple. Your infant will continue to get new baby teeth over the course of several months, until they’re between two and three years old. As each new primary tooth comes in, you’ll want to spend more time cleaning their teeth.
TIP: If you have a toddler who doesn’t like to open their mouth or they tend to bite your fingers most of the time, consider purchasing a second baby toothbrush but using the handle end to act as a prop on one side as they bite down on it.
General Oral Care for Babies and Toddlers
There’s more to keeping your baby’s teeth healthy than just brushing them. Here are some important tips for Ottawa families to keep in mind as their child’s smile develops.
Diet — Tooth decay is often attributed to dietary choices and habits, not just toothbrushing. If your child tends to sip on milk or juice frequently throughout the day, these natural sugars can lead to faster enamel erosion and a higher amount of acid exposure in their mouth.
To reduce the chances of cavities from natural sugars, restrict milk and juice to mealtimes. You can also consider watering down juice so that it’s 50/50 juice (or not providing juice at all) and tap water.
If your toddler is thirsty between meals, water is preferred. Water is completely free of natural sugars and also offers extra cleansing action while your little one sips on it. Never put your baby down for a nap or to bed for the night with a cup or bottle of anything besides water. Otherwise, they’re at a statistically higher chance of developing a condition known as “baby bottle tooth decay.”
Pacifiers, Bottles, and Sippy Cups — While your baby’s teeth are coming in, they’re also erupting into specific locations that will one day act as guides and placeholders for the adult teeth underneath. If your toddler uses a pacifier, sippy cup, or bottle for an extended period of time, it could lead to malocclusion problems such as overbites, open bites, overjets, crowding, tongue thrusting, and speech impediments.
It is recommended helping children break pacifier habits as early as possible.
Fluoride — When you’re brushing baby teeth, you’re cleaning away the superficial plaque buildup. It’s also an opportunity to put natural minerals back into the tooth structure to make it more resistant to cavities. Fluoridated toothpaste can be a safe way to do this on a day to day basis.
As your toddler or preschooler gets older(age 3) and can rinse their mouth out well, you can graduate from a rice-grain amount to an amount of toothpaste that’s about the size of a pea.
“Children from birth to 3 years of age should have their teeth and gums brushed by an adult. The use of fluoridated toothpaste in this age group is determined by the level of risk. Parents should consult a health professional to determine whether a child up to 3 years of age is at risk of developing tooth decay. If such a risk exists, the child’s teeth should be brushed by an adult using a minimal amount (a portion the size of a grain of rice – see figure 1) of fluoridated toothpaste. Use of fluoridated toothpaste in a small amount has been determined to achieve a balance between the benefits of fluoride and the risk of developing fluorosis. If the child is not considered to be at risk, the teeth should be brushed by an adult using a toothbrush moistened only with water.
Early childhood tooth decay can be painful, may cause infection and is difficult and expensive to treat. Therefore, by a child’s first birthday, the parents should consult a health professional knowledgeable in the areas of early childhood tooth decay and the benefits of fluoride. This health professional will help to determine the child’s risk of developing tooth decay and whether there would be a benefit of brushing with a minimal amount (a portion the size of a grain of rice) of fluoridated toothpaste before the age of 3 years.”
Ottawa Dental Checkups for Babies and Toddlers
Leading pediatric dental experts and pediatricians suggest that all babies have their first dental screening by the time they celebrate their first birthday (or 6 months after their first tooth erupts whichever comes first) When you visit Parkdale Dental Centre, we will answer any questions you have about your baby’s teeth, discuss oral hygiene and dietary habits, and then perform a thorough exam of their oral anatomy. This includes screening for things like tongue ties, lip ties, and soft tissue anomalies.
As your baby gets older, these exams will gradually evolve into regular gentle cleanings. By bringing your infant — and then toddler — to see your dentist on a regular basis, we can help them to form a positive outlook on what it’s like to get a dental checkup. Not only that, but we can lower your child’s chances of painful toothaches or cavities through preventative methods. That way your child’s first encounter with your family dentist is less likely one they ever link to pain or discomfort.
Call Parkdale Dental Centre Today
Parkdale Dental Centre provides comprehensive oral health services for all ages in one convenient location. Bringing everyone to the same dental provider makes it easier to get attentive, individualized care for your unique circumstances. Call us today to request your first visit!