Dental Care for Your Baby
It’s never too early to start good oral habits - even for babies! Below we have some tips for what infant dental care should look like.
Before your baby’s first teeth come in, it is important to take care of the gums. After feeding your baby, take a damp washcloth or a strip of gauze and gently rub your baby’s gums to remove any leftover formula or breast milk.
Getting into the habit of gum maintenance early on has a few key benefits for your baby’s oral hygiene.
First, it helps remove any food fragments that remain in the mouth after feeding.
Second, taking care of your baby’s gums helps to develop good habits for parents. You become accustomed to immediately participating in oral hygiene maintenance after feeding times.
Finally, your baby will become used to the process. Introducing new items like toothbrushes and toothpastes becomes easier when the baby is already used to receiving a cleaning after each meal.
First tooth dental care
Once the first tooth is introduced, you will want to add a baby toothbrush to your infant dental care regimen. There are generally two tried-and-true options when it comes to infant toothbrushes.
The first is a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can both hold simultaneously. This encourages your baby to participate in its own dental hygiene.
The second is a brush that sits at the end of what essentially looks like a finger puppet, sliding over the finger with bristles at the end for brushing.
Because it is the first brush used, the bristles will be both soft and few. No toothpaste is necessary, and you can simply dip the toothbrush in a bit of water before brushing.
Now, some infants will not be on board with the introduction of a toothbrush immediately. Babies love to chew on anything they can get into their mouths, so it may be difficult to brush while the baby is treating the toothbrush like a teething instrument. In these situations, go back to using a washcloth or gauze strip for a few days and try again. Repeat this process until your baby is ok with the toothbrush.
Once a few more teeth appear, you can begin to use a small amount of toothpaste when brushing your baby’s teeth. Avoid any toothpastes that have fluoride.
Be sure to help your baby spit up the toothpaste used after you finish brushing their teeth to help develop the habit. The AAP recommends using a "smear" of fluoride toothpaste twice a day when the first tooth appears and until age 3. Once your child has turned 3, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can generally be used.
In order to ensure your baby doesn’t develop any early onset cavities, it is important to avoid sodas, flavored drinks, or other sweetened liquids. Even formula, breast milk, and fruit juices can lead to tooth decay, so in those cases, be sure to follow up the liquid consumption by brushing your baby’s teeth soon after.
Additionally make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle or directly after a feeding without properly cleaning their teeth first. Prolonged contact of sugary liquids to the teeth is a recipe for early tooth decay.
Fluoridated water is a widely accepted solution for preventing tooth decay in young children. This can be implemented as early as 6 months old.
Leading by example
Children tend to pick up on the habits and processes of their parents. It is a natural learning process that you can use to your advantage in helping your child develop strong dental habits. Regularly brushing and flossing while your child watches will help to imprint this habit into their minds.
As a child grows, they will want to replicate their parents’ dental habits. This is a great bonding time you can have with your child, giving them special toothbrushes with their favorite superhero on them, singing songs, or just generally making it a fun daily event.