Did you know that experts recommend cleaning your baby’s mouth even before his or her teeth begin to emerge? It’s the first step in oral care for your infant, and it will help ensure an easier transition to brushing when your child is old enough.
If you’re a new parent, don’t worry, as we’ve compiled a list of tips on oral care for babies that will help guide you as your child grows.
Oral care for your baby doesn’t start when his or her teeth grow in; instead, you can start wiping his or her gums before the teeth even begin to show signs of making their first appearance.
All you have to do is take a soft washcloth or some gauze and wet it during your baby’s bath, before bed, and after feedings (no toothpaste necessary). By wrapping the washcloth or gauze around your finger, you can gently rub it over your child’s gums to remove bacteria that may harm the teeth as they start coming in.
When your baby’s teeth have erupted, you can graduate to a baby toothbrush with soft bristles, a wide handle, and a small head. You can start gently and lightly brushing those tiny teeth twice daily, in the morning and before bed.
At first, you can just use a wet toothbrush. At around age 2, you can use a tiny bit of toothpaste that’s fluoride-free and designed for infants and toddlers. Think the size of a grain of rice—super tiny amount. Your baby should learn how to avoid swallowing the toothpaste. Then ask your dentist when you should switch to a fluoride formula.
If the teeth are spaced far apart, you won’t need to worry about flossing just yet. Flossing will be necessary, though, once the teeth are side by side.
In addition to brushing, there are other easy steps you can take daily to help maintain the health of your baby’s teeth and gums:
Look for minor pitting or discoloration in your baby’s teeth. These are the first symptoms of cavities, which are commonly caused by leaving your child with a bottle of juice or milk for longer than is necessary for feeding.
Once your baby is eating solid foods, let him or her drink water during and after meals, as that will help rinse the mouth clean.
Foods that include dried fruit, fresh fruit, juice, peanut butter and jelly, pasta, pretzels, crackers, and bread can contribute to the development of cavities. Serving them at mealtime instead of as a snack, and giving your child water to drink, will help remove food particles from the mouth.
Your baby should meet the dentist for the first time by his or her first birthday. Another rule you can follow is to take your baby to the dentist within six months of the first tooth emerging. Whichever happens first is the recommended route to take. Having the right dental plan will ensure your child’s care will be covered and his or her teeth and gums can remain healthy and strong.