Even before your baby’s teeth start to appear, you can take steps to put them on the road to good dental health. Babies teeth start to appear at around six months (although this can vary) and will continue until their full set of 20 perfect pearly whites comes through. So what should you be doing to ensure that you’re giving your baby’s teeth the best start in life and to avoid a premature visit from the tooth fairy?
When should I start cleaning my baby’s teeth?
Cleaning your baby’s teeth must be done as soon as they begin to appear in the mouth. The British Dental Health Foundation advises that at first, try wrapping a warm, wet, clean piece of muslin or washcloth around the tip of your forefinger in order to clean your baby’s teeth. Then, as more teeth come through you can buy a special baby toothbrush. Cleaning baby’s teeth is actually very straight forward. Parents softly rub a small piece of fluoride toothpaste into the teeth and gums of the baby, lightly massaging it in.
Once you’re using a toothbrush, try sitting your baby on your lap, facing away from you. You can brush gently (especially if they’re teething), in small circular motions working on the area where the tooth meets the gum – just as you would when cleaning your own teeth, but (pardon the pun!) bitesize!
Baby teeth may eventually fall out, but they are important for preserving the spacing for the permanent ones that will follow, and also for helping your little one to chew and talk. If not cared for properly, the teeth will be prone to decay as will as a risk of gum infections.
How often should I clean my baby’s teeth?
It is vital that you clean your baby’s teeth twice a day and as they grow up get them into the habit of this daily routine. If you are unsure on how to care for your baby’s teeth you can call a team of qualified dental nurses for free advice, at the National Dental Helpline on 01788 539780.
When should we start going to the dentist?
Parents will be able to take the child to their own dental check-ups from when their teeth begin to appear. Until then, it could be a good idea to take them to your own appointments – providing it is okay with your dentist. The dentist could provide you with advice and answer questions which you have. It will also get your child used to the environment of the dentist’s office.
How can I keep my baby’s teeth healthy?
Dental decay in children in the UK is higher than ever, due to the accessibility of sugary snacks and treats which are available. However, the cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar in a child’s diet but how often it is allowed. It is important to keep your child’s sugar and acid intake to mealtimes, and then decreasing the chance of decay. Snacks are allowed but fruits, vegetables and cheeses are recommended.
Top tips for healthy teeth:
- Never dip your baby’s dummy or teething ring into fruit syrups, honey, fruit juices or anything containing sugars, particularly at bedtime. These contain harmful sugars and acids, which can attack your baby’s newly formed teeth and cause decay.
- Try to avoid leaving your infant with a bottle for a long period of time, particularly if they’re using it for comfort as opposed to feeding. Encourage drinking from a beaker from around 6 months, discourage using a bottle at all from 1 year and only give water or milk at night.
- Avoid fruit juices, flavoured milk and fizzy drinks through the day – stick with cooled boiled water, breast milk or formula.
- Only offer sugary food and drinks at mealtimes if at all.
- The first signs of cavities in baby teeth are discolouration and minor pitting – if you notice either of these make an appointment with your dentist.
- Give water after meals. A simple drink of water will wash most residue food left behind after a meal.
- Give your baby a soft toothbrush to chew on (with supervision), so that he can get used to having it in his mouth – you can start this even before teeth appear.
- Replace your baby’s toothbrush every one to three months – as soon as the bristles start to spread out.
- Check fluoride levels in your baby toothpaste are appropriate – low fluoride for under 3’s.
- You’ll only need a little smear of toothpaste, covering about three quarters of the brush. Try to encourage your baby to spit out the toothpaste afterwards (this will obviously depend on their age) and avoid a toothpaste that tastes amazing – swallowing large amounts of fluoride isn’t great for your baby’s health or their teeth, so they need to learn early on that toothpaste isn’t food!
- Let your baby watch you brush your own teeth, so that he will start to mimic you.