Many parents are unsure when or how to start brushing their young children’s teeth. It is an important and legitimate concern: we want our children to have happy and healthy mouths. Failing to maintain their oral health can lead to frequent and costly dental treatment, so what can you do to get your little ones on the right track?
You can start cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears, which occurs the first 6-10 months of life. This is also about the time when your child should have their first dental visit. The teeth are just coming in and the likelihood of your child getting cavities at this point is small, but it is important to have them get used to seeing the dentist. Also, it is a way for parents to be on the same page with the dentist and being informed on proper oral hygiene care for their young ones!
When your child’s teeth are still coming in, you can start wiping them with a wet gauze. As more teeth begin to grow in and your child is a little older, you can transition to using a soft bristle toothbrush and toothpaste. It may also be a good idea to sit in front of a mirror, that way you and your baby can see what you are doing. Start off with very gentle, circular motion around all the teeth and all areas of the gums.
It is important to start this activity when your child is young. One way to make it easier is by trying to make cleaning teeth a fun activity! Try different things such as letting your child brush your teeth and follow the tips below:
Children can be switched to fluoride toothpaste as soon as their teeth start to come in. Only a small, grain-sized amount of paste is necessary to clean a toddler’s teeth. Children’s teeth are smaller than adult teeth, so less toothpaste is needed. This is also to minimize the amount of fluoride a child may swallow while brushing. Ingestion of a small amount of fluoride is harmless so do not worry if your child does so. However, swallowing large amounts of fluoride can lead to fluorosis, which can create patches or discoloration on the adult teeth developing underneath the child’s gums.
Children under age 3 clean their teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Parents should first start out supervising brushing until the child becomes more comfortable and develops the correct habits. It is important to inspect your child’s teeth after every brushing to ensure they’re doing a proper job of removing plaque and food debris.
Babies should be taken to a dentist for pediatric care when they receive their first teeth, since putting it off longer increases the child’s risk of developing plaque buildup or cavities. A child should at least be brought before their first birthday.
Some parents might think there is no point in caring for baby teeth, since they will “fall out anyways.” This could not be farther from the truth. It is true that baby teeth will gradually be replaced by adult teeth, but they serve an important role of maintaining space in a child’s mouth for the adult teeth to grow in. Also, heavily infected baby teeth can lead to infections, which can interfere with the development of the adult teeth. Heavily decayed baby teeth can also lose a lot of tooth structure, which may cause the baby teeth to shift or alter the child’s bite. Lastly, if a child does not learn how to take proper care of his/her baby teeth, they often fail to take care of their adult teeth in the future. It’s always best for children to develop strong oral hygiene habits as soon as possible, so they can maintain their teeth and avoid a lot of dental work in the future.