Brushing Baby’s Teeth

One of the most exciting first milestones for your baby will be when he cuts his first tooth.  Usually the front bottom incisors comes in first, and boy does that toothy grin make you melt.  With the development of the first tooth should come a new health routine: brushing baby’s teeth.

Breaking new teeth can be a double-edged sword in many households.  It’s a sign your baby is growing and maturing in a healthy way, but it can also be quite painful for some babies.  A new tooth is often marked by fussiness, lack-of-sleep, refusal to nurse, excessive drool, the desire to bite down and diarrhea.   It’s disruptive for the household, but remember it is only temporary.  Try soothing your baby’s aching mouth with cold teething rings or ice wrapped in a washcloth.  If the pain seems unbearable for your baby, ask your doctor for a recommendation of a natural teething gel that is safe for infants.

Brushing Baby's TeethAs soon as that first tooth cuts through, it’s time to start brushing!  Starting a dental health routine from the beginning will help establish good oral hygiene for years to come.  Many parents underestimate brushing from such an early age.  Even though baby teeth will eventually fall out, the health of the first set of teeth dictates the health of permanent teeth and the lifetime of your child’s gums.  So it is important to start good dental practices from infancy.

For babies, the best tooth brushes are often finger brushes.  They are made of rubber and fit over a caregivers’ finger.  They have soft, bendable rubber bristles that can gently massage baby’s teeth and gums.  For some babies with brand new teeth, the area may be rather sensitive so if you feel brushing the first few days after a tooth appears is too painful, avoid that area.  Other babies find this soft brushing soothing to irritated gums.  If your baby is fussy while brushing his teeth, try singing to him or otherwise distracting him during the process.  Just like many other health habits, this one will take a little getting used to.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using toothpaste from day one of brushing.  Contrary to previous guidelines, the AAP now recommends using a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) once the first tooth erupts through the third birthday.  After three, AAP recommends using a pea-sized portion of fluoride toothpaste.  These guidelines were established after a recent study published in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics sites fluoride as the most effective method to prevent cavities in children.  Surprising to many, tooth decay is the most chronic disease in children in the U.S.

When your baby is old enough to hold his own toothbrush, supply one made specifically for toddlers.  These will have smaller handles and heads, and the bristles will be extra soft.  Your dentist may have extras so ask for a sample next time you go in for a teeth cleaning.  For all the “do it myself” toddlers, you may want to buy non-fluoride toothpaste that he can apply himself and brush with repeatedly.  Many kids love the taste of toothpaste and it is common for them to want to eat it off their toothbrushes.  As long as they are not consuming excessive fluoride, brushing a few extra times with non-fluoride toothpaste is fine.

Most children see the dentist for the first time during their second year of life.  Your pediatrician should let you know when to schedule your first visit and may have a recommendation for a pediatric dentistry practice.  Ask the dentist if they offer a “trial” visit where your tot can become familiar with the idea of visiting the dentist without actually having a cleaning.  He can explore the waiting room, take a ride in the reclining chair and practice opening his mouth wide under a bright light.  This often makes the first real cleaning go a lot smoother.

Congrats on reaching the milestone of first teeth.  Before you know it, you’ll have a toddler with a mouth full of pearly whites.  Take good care of those beautiful teeth from the beginning to establish a lifetime of great oral hygiene and dental health.