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Brushing Baby Teeth

Brushing Baby Teeth

Healthy smiles are important long before your baby is even born, with their early tooth buds already developing during gestation. Your baby’s mouth will continually grow and develop at an accelerated rate from the moment they’re born to the time they leave home for college. But brushing baby teeth on an infant or toddler is quite different from how you care for your own smile. Read on to learn more about how to care for your baby’s teeth (before they even have any!)

Oral Hygiene for Babies and Toddlers

Early preventative care—like brushing your baby’s teeth—is essential to ensuring they have a healthy smile that lasts the rest of their life. Dental experts and paediatricians recommend bringing your baby to the dentist when their first tooth erupts or no later than their first birthday. Scheduling routine dental checkups during toddlerhood help establish a positive outlook on dental care, as visits are gentler and prevention-driven, as opposed to waiting until there’s a problem or dental emergency to deal with.

During your visits to Hawthorn Road Family Dental, we’ll provide age-appropriate oral hygiene advice for each member of your household.

Early dental care will help your child enjoy a reduced risk of tooth decay and dental emergencies. Especially since baby teeth tend to be less dense than permanent teeth are, meaning cavities can spread at an advanced rate. If issues such as baby bottle tooth decay are beginning to develop, we can address the infection as early as possible before serious infection, and permanent damage occurs.

When to Start Brushing Baby Teeth

It is essential to start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they erupt before any symptoms of decay or oral infection even have the chance of forming. You can even start preparing your baby’s early hygiene habits before their first tooth has even erupted. Preventative care is key to avoiding common dental problems and emergencies, especially during childhood.

How to Brush Baby Teeth

Early oral hygiene habits begin before your baby ever gets their first tooth. Use a soft, damp cloth over your finger to gently rub and clean their gums after each meal. This stimulation is good for teething and prevents bacterial infections such as thrush. Thrush is not only uncomfortable for your baby, but it can also be painful for a nursing mother as well.

Once your baby’s teeth start to erupt, regular brushing of their teeth can help reduce their chances of developing tooth decay and gingivitis. While each infant’s tooth eruption timeframe will vary, most babies will get their first teeth around 6 to 12 months of age. When parents brush their infant’s teeth, it creates a healthy relationship with oral care in general. It also gets ahead of potential dental problems before they ever have a chance to start.

As you brush, make small circular motions across each surface of every tooth until each of their teeth has been thoroughly cleaned. Be sure to gently brush along the gumlines as well, as plaque tends to be heavier in those spaces. Your baby will most likely get their lower front teeth first, which are extremely easy to see; the older they get, the further back their teeth will erupt.

You’ll likely notice areas where the baby’s unruptured teeth are gradually cutting through the gums as you brush their teeth. Sometimes, the gums thin out, and you can see the very top of their tooth in that space. As the tooth starts to cut through the gums, gently brush that area to remove any bacterial plaque.

Plan to brush your baby’s teeth twice a day at a minimum: once in the morning and again before bedtime. But, if possible, try to brush mid-day as well, after they nurse or take a bottle. Frequent brushing isn’t just healthy; it helps form strong oral hygiene habits that will last them well throughout their lives.

As your baby’s teeth come in and begin to touch side by side, start using a floss pick to clean between their teeth. These areas are especially prone to tooth decay, but you cannot clean them with a toothbrush. That’s 40% of tooth surfaces that a toothbrush won’t reach. Thankfully, many baby teeth have nice spaces between them to save room for their future adult replacements, making those spaces less likely to develop decay.

Teething babies

Choosing a Baby Toothbrush

Choosing a toothbrush that is small enough for a baby’s tiny mouth is essential. It shouldn’t cover more than two teeth at a time. This is also true for toddlers who have their own toothbrushes. Use a baby training toothbrush or “finger brush” that fits over the end of your finger. If the toothbrush is too large, it won’t be able to clean around the tiny curves of your baby’s smile.

As your baby gets older, you’ll want to change their toothbrush too. Toddler toothbrushes tend to be slightly larger than training toothbrushes, with child-friendly handles that make it easier for your child to use independently.

After each use, be sure to rinse your child’s toothbrush and store it upright in a dry location to prevent any bacteria from harbouring between the bristles. Be sure to change the brush out every 3-4 months or if your baby is sick to prevent recurring infections.

Using Baby Toothpaste

Experts now recommend that parents use a rice-grain-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to brush their baby’s teeth. When used in proper amounts, fluoride helps combat tooth decay and encourages proper enamel mineralisation as their child’s smile develops. The proper dose is key, as too little won’t be helpful, and too much fluoride toothpaste could irritate their stomach if they accidentally swallow it.

As babies turn into toddlers and then pre-schoolers, they will learn to rinse well after brushing. At that point, you can shift from using a rice-grain dose of toothpaste to a pea-sized amount. It’s not necessary to use any more than that, even if you’re an adult.

It’s also safe to use fluoridated tap water to brush your baby’s teeth and gums. However, they won’t be getting the added benefits of fluoride toothpaste. You can read more about choosing the right toothpaste for your family here.

Teething Baby Tips

When your baby’s teeth erupt, they must first “cut” through the gums. Pressure from rubbing their gums or giving them a baby-safe teething toy can help ease discomfort and speed up how quickly the tooth erupts through the gums.

Common symptoms of teething include:

  • Fussiness
  • Drooling
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Runny nose or diarrhea
  • Sucking or chewing on fingers
  • Tugging at the ears

While some babies get a mild fever, they tend to be fairly short-lived and often happen right when the tooth erupts. Anything beyond that typically isn’t related to teething, so always check with your paediatrician if your baby is running a high fever.

To help ease your child’s teething discomfort, give your baby a refrigerated teething ring or a cool, damp washcloth to chew on. Avoid frozen items and over-the-counter numbing medications or holistic teething tablets, as these can be harmful to infants. However, if your child is experiencing significant discomfort, it’s typically safe to give them Tylenol or ibuprofen as directed by your paediatrician.

Every infant has about 20 primary (baby) teeth. Experts say that the typical tooth eruption timeframe lasts about eight days. On average, most babies will experience off-and-on teething symptoms from around the time they’re 6 or 7 months old to their second birthday. At age 6 or 7, their permanent teeth will start to come in.

Dental Exams for Babies

As soon as your baby’s first teeth cut through, plan to contact your family dentist for their first exam. And always make sure they’ve seen a dentist by the time your baby turns one year old. While these visits tend to be more “fun” in nature, they help familiarise your child with the dental office to make it less intimidating. It also ensures your child has access to preventative services that reduce the risk of painful dental issues as they get older.

When children grow up experiencing comfortable, preventative dental visits, they’re less likely to associate the dentist’s office with something painful or scary. Plus, your family dentist can routinely monitor your child’s oral development to pinpoint concerns as they arise. This approach to care minimises the extent of your child’s dental needs and allows more modest, less-invasive therapies to correct them.

Plan to schedule a dental checkup for your child every six months.

Contact Our Family Dentist Today

Hawthorn Road Family Dental provides prevention-focused oral health services for all ages, including babies and toddlers. If you have a young child and are concerned about their oral development or dental needs, or they’re due for their first dental exam, we encourage you to contact us.

Dr. Mahima Krongold

Dr. Mahima Krongold

Dr Krongold has been practicing dentistry for over twenty years. She has background experience dealing with a diverse range of dental issues, which vary significantly from individual to individual. Her experience has been built upon by her endless thirst for practical and technological advancement in the field of crowns, implants, bridge work, root canals, endodontics, teeth whitening and cosmetic work. Dr Krongold is a family dentist with three children. Children's dentistry is a specialised area for her, particularly encompassing oral hygiene and dental comfort.

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