Early Teeth Care: A Parent’s Complete Guide to Brushing Baby Teeth

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Brushing Baby Teeth: How to Care, Brush, and Establish a Brushing Routine

As a new mom or dad, there is nothing more wonderful than the first time your baby smiles. Those sweet, chubby cheeks and sparkling eyes framed by a gummy smile can make your day. It’s love. Then, a tooth appears.   Wonderful.

However, as a young mom or dad, not only do you want your baby to have a perfect smile with all their teeth, you want a lifelong smile of perfection. First, as a baby with those delicate teeth,  then a young person moving into permanent teeth and following them all the way into their senior years with a glowing natural smile. What you do now to nurture and then teach your baby will have lifelong effects?

Why it Matters

Oral hygiene is one of the most vital health care steps you can take to assure a wonderful life for your darling child.  So, let’s begin with those important first steps.

You want to nurture great habits along with that cuddliness of love. But the challenge is knowing when to start the daily long-term habit of brushing teeth. And how does one convince a sometimes cranky small person, that it’s a habit that will lead to, not only to a great smile for life but lifelong health and well-being?

Great teeth are the first step to great digestion for life, so let’s start that darling out right.

Being a smart, savvy mom or dad, you know that your baby’s health comes first. So, let’s look at all the basics of brushing baby teeth so you can make informed choices, and know what to do when those inevitable baby challenges come up.

When to Start Cleaning Baby’s Mouth?

The precursor to tooth brushing can begin very early with mouth brushing.   You can start, by taking a washcloth and wrapping it around your finger and lightly rubbing your baby’s gums.   This will remove the bacteria in your baby’s mouth, and get her or him used to the process. As if there’s not enough.

When to Start Brushing My Baby’s Teeth

The actual brushing of teeth can begin with a small, soft toothbrush, known as a training toothbrush. When the first tooth comes in. One of the places you can find a small brush is a pediatric dentist, setting the tone for a long-term relationship with a dentist as well and an opportunity to make a first visit appointment. When tooth eruption occurs, brushing can sometimes relieve that discomfort. You may also continue to use a wash cloth or a finger brush for a while before moving to a toothbrush. Gently wipe clean the first teeth and the tip of the tongue, after meals and at bedtime.

When to Replace Baby’s Toothbrush?

Replace any toothbrush that becomes rough or is more than 4 months old. Remember baby teeth have far less enamel than grownup teeth and are delicate and fragile. Gentle is your mantra.

They may be teeth-in-training for the eventual permanent sparkly whites, but they need the same care and devotion. A lost baby tooth or one with decay can hinder good nutrition and proper speech development. This occurs because the baby tooth gets their own place for permanent teeth. Problems can make the permanent teeth come in crooked or have insufficient tooth enamel. As a savvy mom, you can protect that gleaming future smile and help them create the environment for good digestion.

Can I Use Toothpaste To Brush My Toddler’s Teeth?

Yes, it’s great to get in the habit of using toothpaste.

  • Make sure you only put a tiny amount of paste or gel on the toothbrush, about the size of a grain of rice on the brush.
  • Don’t use toothpaste with fluoride until age 3.
  • Don’t let your baby swallow excess toothpaste
  • Explore the possibilities of many different tastes and products.   From bubble gum to tropical fruit there are many choices.   There are also tooth gels, which are slicker and have a smoother mouthfeel.

Is Fluoride Safe For Babies?

Although low levels of fluoride prevent tooth decay, it’s not advisable for babies. There are many baby and toddler-friendly tubes of toothpaste that are available. Substituting grown-up toothpaste isn’t an option. There is too much fluoride, especially since spitting and rinsing can be a challenge. The taste may have a small person cringe and cry. Tooth brushing should be a great experience, not painful or uncomfortable.

Teaching Baby to Brush

Like any skill, teaching baby to brush takes time, patience and planning.

Thanks to YouTube, there are many “how to” videos. There are a dozen or more videos of Teaching Baby to Brush.   Enough, in fact, to get your Ph.D. in baby dental hygiene and persuasion.

Make Tooth Brushing A  Game

Place your baby next to you on the counter when he or she can sit comfortably, sometimes a towel to brace the child can help. Let your darling watch how much fun it is to brush teeth. Give a toothy grin. Let baby hold his or her own baby toothbrush while you brush. Some children become entranced with the spitting. It’s all good. Let your darling imitate, spitting, rinsing and brushing. It’s the imitation that is important.

Don’t expect someone under three to clean their teeth well. Even though they will do try it, you must finish the process.

Your hands can guide their toothbrush. Begin brushing the front teeth, then the molars.

Announce the tooth brushing ritual with cheery words like “We are going to make magic in our mouths and brush away the germs”. Sing a song. “Brush, brush, brush your teeth, up and down the gums…” (to the tune of “Row, row, row your boat”.  Count the teeth.   Tell baby that he or she can someday have as many teeth as mom or dad, and let them count your teeth as well.

When Do They Learn To Spit And Rinse?

Some kids get the spit and rinse very early.   Some take to spitting as if it’s the most wonderful thing they’ve discovered. Most, however, master the spit and rinse between age 3 and 4. Like most baby and toddler things, it’s a bumpy learning curve of oral hygiene. Gentle patience is your mantra.  They learn by modeling, so it’s a good thing to share tooth brushing time, so they can watch and learn.

Do I Use Toothpaste Or Nothing At All?

In the first few stages of infancy, no toothpaste is needed. However, when your darling grows past infancy stage.  It’s time to use toothpaste.

  • Choose  mildly sweet toothpaste
  • Small bits, no bigger than a piece of rice.
  • A toothpaste that feels soft.
  • Taste test it yourself first. That strong mint that you love may be too harsh for your little one, who likes gentle flavors. Make sure it’s not overly gritty either.
  • Choose the kid-friendly tastes like tropical fruit, lemon, orange or bubblegum.

What to Do When Baby Hates Brushing Teeth

Oh, the challenge of wills that comes with a growing child.   Remember, as teeth erupt, change and grow, there may be growing pains and discomforts you may not be aware of immediately. There could be many reasons a child rejects brushing.   Don’t push when there is an immediate rejection of brushing. One missed brushing with a cranky child won’t set a bad precedent, but pushing your child to brush might.

Here are several suggestions that might help to persuade baby that it’s something special and necessary.

  • Try brushing your teeth before you brush baby’s so she or he can see. Smile and talk about how good it is.
  • Praise your baby when brushing goes well.
  • Try two brushes. One for baby to play with. One for you to brush baby’s teeth with. Take your time, baby might decide to chew on the spare toothbrush in between you brushing the top and bottom teeth.
  • Remember a little patience goes a long way.
  • An ice cube or cool pacifier that may numb sore gums during tooth eruption,  that may help by making brushing less upsetting.
  • Sing the Raffi Song “Brush your Teeth“. When you pick up the toothbrush, sing “ch ch ch ch” and invite your child to sing and burble along. Or “Brush, brush your teeth” to the tune of Row Row your boat. Or make up your own family song.
  • Try a different toothpaste flavor.

When Can I Take Baby To A Dentist?

It is advisable to find a dentist that has pediatric care in mind. A child should see a dentist before their first birthday, and generally within 6 months after the first tooth comes in.

What Happens At The First Dental Visit?

The first dental visit is about making dental visits an enjoyable experience. The visit is short and involves very little treatment.  Your little one has an opportunity to meet the dentist in a friendly manner.

During the exam, the dentist at St. John’s Pediatric Dentistry will check all of your baby’s existing teeth. The dentist will look for decay. Then,  examine your child’s bite.The exam will also include looking for any potential problems. The dentist will look at the gums, as well as other oral tissues. The dentist will also look at how the jaw is growing. The dentist will spend sometimes discussing basic oral health for your child and answer any questions you might have. If there are dental problems that are in your family history, this is a time to address them.  Some dental problems can be avoided if dealt with during those tender beginning years.

Be assured that St. Johns Pediatric Dentistry is there for you and your precious baby to answer all the questions that you might have.