Unfortunately, your newborn didn’t arrive with a neat little set of instructions. So, it’s not surprising that when those first teeth make their way through the gums many parents find themselves asking, “When do I need to start brushing my baby’s teeth? How do I do it? What should I use?
In this post, we’ll answer these exact questions and give you some practical hints and tips on how to brush baby teeth.
Tooth decay can happen as soon as your child’s teeth erupt, which is why it is important to set a dental routine early. Sadly, tooth decay is still one of the most common childhood diseases. An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found that nearly half – 48.7% – of children aged 5-6 years had tooth decay. The good news is that there are some easy steps you can take to reduce the chances of your child getting tooth decay.
Keeping tiny teeth in tip-top shape is a big topic, so we created this easy to read FREE guide to help parents just like you prevent tooth decay. Click the image, fill in the details and we’ll send it to you straight away!
Why do I need to brush baby teeth if they’re just going to fall out anyway?
Baby teeth act as a guide for our adult teeth to come through in the ideal position. When we have missing teeth in our mouths, the other teeth may drift into the space left by the missing tooth causing the adult tooth to come through in the wrong position. Not only are they important to guide adult teeth but they also encourage proper chewing, eating, speaking and the healthy development of your child’s jaw bones and muscles.
So let’s dive a little deeper into how to do this!
Look after baby gums even before there are any teeth
Even before your child’s first teeth make their grand entrance at around the six-month mark, it is recommended to clean your baby’s mouth after feeds to remove liquid and food. A common way to do this is to use a clean piece of gauze or clean cloth to wipe the baby’s gums, taking care to remove liquid and food before settling them in for the night.
Brush baby teeth when they appear
Baby teeth, like adult ones, can develop a sticky film called plaque as a result of naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth. This plaque causing bacteria loves to feed off sugar and carbohydrates and in doing so creates the acids that weaken tooth enamel and cause decay. And it’s not just sweet treats that contain sugar; there are plenty of foods with natural sugars, including fruit, breastmilk and formula. Dental plaque build-up is completely normal in humans so don’t panic, it just means we need to consistently wage war on the bacteria through regular brushing!
How do I brush baby teeth?
The easiest way to brush an infant’s teeth is to sit or lay them on your lap and gently brush while supporting their head. You’ll want to ease your child into this new activity. And, like everything, it will take some practice. Start with 30-second sessions and slowly increase brushing time to 2 minutes. As your child gets older and is walking around, you can turn this daily routine into a fun activity, playing their favourite song or incorporating it into bath time if your child enjoys this activity. Dr Diane Tay, Specialist Children’s Dentist, recommends establishing a routine so that over time your child will become “desensitised” to brushing and see it as completely normal.
Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and clean the teeth in a gentle circular motion taking care to brush all the tooth surfaces: top, front, outside and inside. As the back teeth emerge, take extra care to brush the top surface grooves where food can sometimes get stuck.
How often should I brush my baby’s teeth?
Twice a day is ideal. Once after breakfast and then again after their last meal. Don’t forget to not only clean the teeth but also gently clean the gums too.
Choosing the right children’s toothbrush
Select a toothbrush specially designed for children with a small head and soft, rounded bristles that will massage teeth and gums gently. These are readily available at most supermarkets and come in an assortment of fun colours or theme characters. After brushing, clean the toothbrush by rinsing it with water and hanging it up to dry.
Best toothpaste to brush baby teeth
It is best to brush baby teeth with just plain water up to the age of 18 months. After this, you may use a children’s low fluoride toothpaste. Start with just a small smear to get your child used to the taste. Once they are used to it, you can use a pea sized amount.
Now, here comes the fun part! At this stage, you can start teaching your child how to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. This new skill will take some practice so at first you can just wipe the excess toothpaste with a clean cloth or tissue. There’s no need to rinse your baby’s mouth after brushing.
Should I floss too?
As more teeth erupt and start to touch each other, it is a good idea also to introduce flossing. Food can get trapped between baby teeth and cause bacteria to accumulate. You can use traditional floss, but if you are finding it difficult it is worth trying ones that have small handles.
Baby’s first dental visit
The Australian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry recommends baby’s first visit around the time of their first birthday. This first check-up, usually done with baby sitting on your lap in a child-friendly room, allows the dentist to check the healthy development of your child’s first set of teeth. It will ease your child into the routine of visiting the dentist, and they will be less likely to be frightened of a dental visit, creating healthy dental habits they can take to adulthood.
If you have a child aged 2-17 and receive Family Benefit Part A you could receive up to $1000 over a two-year calendar period for routine dental care under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule. To find out if your child is eligible and to learn more visit the Department of Human Services website or contact your local Medicare office.