Teeth can be a parent’s worst nightmare, causing countless nights of broken sleep, a sick and tired baby and even ear infections.
But as we all know, teeth are incredibly important and so it’s vital that we take care of them — especially when it comes to baby teeth.
A baby will most likely grow their first tooth at about 6 months old, but it could be earlier. Some are even born with a tooth already pushed through the gum, believe it or not! And by the age of two to three, babies will have 20 teeth, called milk teeth.
From the time the very first tooth appears, parents should start brushing their child’s teeth, and you’ll continue doing so until they are about eight when they will get the hang of brushing themselves.
To help you along this teething journey, here are a few tips you should know about brushing baby teeth.
1. Choosing the right toothbrush for your baby.
- Even when your baby has only one tooth, it’s time to start a good brushing routine day and night. At first, however it might be easier to use a washcloth instead of toothbrush because your baby’s gums may be sensitive. It is recommended to use just water at first instead of toothpaste to lower the risk of tooth decay.
- When you think your baby is ready for a real toothbrush, pick one with soft, round-ended bristles of differing lengths, and a small, angled head for easy brushing.
- Replace your baby’s toothbrush after three months, or sooner if the bristles have started to spread out.
2. How often should I clean my baby’s teeth?
- Try to get into the habit of brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day. Do it once in the morning, at a time that fits in with your usual routine. Then clean your baby’s teeth again before bed, after they’ve had their last drink.
- If you get your baby into a routine early enough, they won’t fight against having their teeth brushed and might find it fun.
- If you are having difficulties, give them a toothbrush to hold while you brush their teeth.
3. How to brush:
- Apply water or a very thin dab of toothpaste (smaller than a pea) to the brush or face washer.
- Move the brush in small, gentle movements in a circle over the teeth, concentrating on where the tooth and gum meet.
- If you have used toothpaste, make sure your baby spits it out rather than rinse or swallow water.
4. What kind of toothpaste should I use?
- Dental health experts recommend using a fluoride toothpaste, which helps prevent tooth decay. Make sure you check the packing though, as too much fluoride can be harmful to babies.
- It is recommended that children under three only use toothpaste if they are at risk of developing tooth decay, which is a problem that your dentist of doctor should be able to identify.
- Over-threes can use a fluoride-based children’s toothpaste, however it’s recommended that only a small amount (the size of pea) is applied to the toothbrush.
5. Protecting your baby’s teeth by avoiding sugar.
- Sugar is the enemy when it comes to little baby teeth, especially if your child is consuming a lot of it!
- Food such as dried fruits, flavoured milk, fizzy drinks and fruit juice are all high in sugar and should only be consumed on an “every now and then” basis. Remember, the main cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar in your baby’s diet, but how often it is eaten or drunk throughout the day.