Since your baby’s teeth are so small, it can be challenging to imagine how important they are to your child’s overall health. Proper gum and teeth preparation provides their incoming teeth with a germ-free environment.
Are you wondering if you are correctly caring for your baby’s oral health? In this guide, we will cover the basics of baby through toddler teeth care.
Newborn Gum Care
Even though your newborn does not have any teeth yet, it is essential to take care of their gums. Caring for their gums ensures their brand new chompers have a bacteria-free start. Brushing your baby’s gums will establish a routine, and your baby will know what to expect.
You should brush your baby’s teeth at least once in the morning and once before bed. You can use a washcloth, a baby gum brush, or terry cloth finger cots if you have them on hand. Rub your finger over their gums just like you would their teeth to keep bacteria at bay.
Start Brushing Baby’s Teeth as Soon as They Come in
Most babies’ teeth start popping up around six months. Make sure you keep up their gum brushing routine, even while they are teething. The cleaning will be soothing and will keep their already inflamed gums clear of any potentially harmful bacteria.
Tooth decay can start to cause problems with your child’s teeth when the first tooth comes in, so it is essential to treat a single tooth the same as a mouth full of teeth. The American Dental Association recommends you take your child to see a dentist as soon as their first tooth comes in.
Steps to Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth
Unlike other baby topics, there is a right way and a wrong way to brush your toddler’s teeth. Once your baby is safely situated, either in your arms or on a stool, you should:
- Place a pea-size amount of toothpaste onto a child-sized, soft toothbrush
- Lean your child’s head back so you can see all sides of their teeth
- Brush at an angle toward your babies gum
- Rotate in small circles to clean the outside of their teeth and gums
- Move to the inside of the teeth and gums with the same gentle circular motion
- Take the brush to the top surface of the teeth where your child chews
- Brush back and forth on this part of the teeth
- Finally, when you brush all areas, ask your child to spit the toothpaste out
When you are all finished with the brushing steps, you can rinse off the toothbrush and get your child down from their stool or set them down if you were holding them. Keep an eye on your child’s toothbrush condition and replace it if the bristles are becoming frayed or worn. Generally, toothbrushes have a 3-4 month lifecycle.
What to do if Your Child Hates Brushing Their Teeth
Some children will not take to their tooth brushing routine right away. It may be as simple as the bristles tickle their gums, or they may not like the texture. Do not worry if your child is disinterested or refuses to brush their teeth. There are a few things you can try to make brushing time more enjoyable for your little one.
Get them involved
Sometimes something as simple as little them pick out the toothpaste or hold their brush while you squeeze some paste onto the bristles. You can also allow them to brush their teeth after you do. Choosing which area they start brushing gives your child a sense of control. As long as their teeth are clean, it may get your child on board.
Turn teeth brushing into family game time
Doing activities as a family can often encourage your child to participate. If everyone is brushing their teeth, your little one will want to brush theirs as well. You can turn brushing into a game to see who can get their teeth the cleanest.
Music is soothing to children and can make the experience more fun. You can make up silly songs about brushing your teeth or use music as a timer to help lengthen the time frame your child is brushing.
Change the toothpaste flavor
Children’s taste buds can vary quite a bit. A minty toothpaste may not be tasty for your little one. Toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors and trial size tubes.
Adjust the water temperature
Kids can be sensitive to temperature. If you usually brush with cold water, try warming it up to see if that helps. If you typically use warm water, try lowering the temperature.
Let them practice on a toy
For toddlers, brushing a doll or favorite stuffed animal’s teeth may pique their interest in brushing their own.
Routine will also help your child get used to brushing. Brushing is not an option since keeping their baby teeth healthy is vital to their adult teeth coming in correctly. A few adjustments to the routine will help your child develop a lifelong brushing habit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Baby’s teeth progress in their timeline. Some babies can start to teethe as early as two months and can be as late as 7-8 months. General guidelines can give you a sense of where your child should be and when to be concerned. Always talk to your pediatrician or dentist if you are unsure if something is normal or not. We have researched a handful of frequently asked questions and answers to give you a launching point for your baby’s teeth.
When do baby teeth come in, and in what order?
Baby’s teeth first start coming in around six months. The first tooth to come in is their central incisor, their bottom front tooth, followed by their top front tooth. Toddlers will have their full set of 20 baby teeth in place by the age of three. For exact placement, take a look at the ADA’s baby teeth chart here.
How do you know if you aren’t brushing your baby’s teeth properly?
If their teeth brushing is not adequate, your baby’s teeth will develop a white film known as plaque. Their teeth can also look yellow. Parents should brush their baby’s teeth for two minutes to ensure that there are no leftover bacteria.
How can you tell if your baby has a cavity?
Even with careful brushing, cavities can still occur. Your child complaining of mouth pain can be a sign of a cavity. With smaller children, it can be as simple as an aversion to chewing their foods. Other signs can be less subtle:
* Holes in the tooth
* Stained teeth
* Temperature sensitivity
* Sensitive to salty or sweet foods
* Jaw pain
All of these signs require a trip to see the dentist. As a parent, you can prevent cavities from happening by making sure your child drinks plenty of water and does not have anything to eat after brushing their teeth at night.
When do you take your baby to the dentist?
The ADA recommends that your baby visits the dentist within six months of getting their first tooth. Their first visit should be at least before their first birthday. Do not wait until they are getting ready to start school or if there is an emergency.
Is Fluoride safe for babies?
The ADA and the AAP recommend that babies use fluoride toothpaste. It is considered safe for use, especially in small amounts. Fluoride helps protect your child’s teeth and reverse the damage that can occur to their enamel.
However, Fluoride is still a toxic substance, and when consumed in large doses, it can be harmful to developing brains. It is found in many places besides toothpaste, such as water, bottled and tap, Teflon, seafood, cereals, and formula.
When are they able to spit and rinse?
Start teaching them to spit from the beginning. Your child may not get the hang of it until they are a little bigger. Around age 2-3, they will get better at spitting on their own. It is best to introduce mouthwash to them when they are closer to 5-6. At this age, they are less likely to swallow.
When should I start flossing my child’s teeth?
Flossing should begin when your child’s teeth start to touch. You will notice that as each tooth comes in, there is usually space still surrounding it. As your toddler gets closer to their 20 primary teeth, their teeth will start to touch. When teeth touch, it allows food to become trapped. Flossing removes trapped food and prevents cavities from happening.
When should my baby stop using a pacifier?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should begin limiting the use of pacifiers at six months. At the age of one, you should start moving your child away from using a pacifier. The AAP states that using a pacifier past the ages of 2- 4-years-old can affect how your child’s mouth is shaped and potentially harm the baby teeth’ alignment as they come in. Since these baby teeth are a placeholder for their adult teeth, you want them to come in as straight as possible.
Toddlers will likely not let go of their pacifiers on their own, especially if they use it for soothing. You will have to approach getting rid of the pacifier on your own and get your child on board.
Some creative ways to get your child to give up their pacifier is to:
* Collect all the pacifiers and say they are going to new babies
* Swap it for a stuffed animal or another toy your child wants
* Tell them the pacifiers needed to hibernate for the winter
* Praise them for not using the pacifier
There is no one size fits all method for getting your child to stop using their pacifier, and each child is different. Play around with the various techniques to find which one works best for your child.
When should my baby stop sucking their thumb?
Some babies switch from the pacifier to their thumb. Sucking on their thumbs provides them with a similar sense of soothing and security that a pacifier did. According to the Mayo Clinic, children will generally stop sucking their thumbs by the time they are 4-years-old.
They may go back to sucking their thumbs, though, if they are feeling stressed or scared. You shouldn’t be too concerned if your child is still sucking their thumb between the ages of 3-5-years-old. Dentists gauge their concern for thumb-sucking habits on how often your child sucks their thumb and how intense. Prolonged, intense thumb sucking begins to cause problems in the roof of a child’s mouth and generally is a concern when they start to get their permanent teeth.
Since most children stop on their own, dentists usually don’t recommend any treatment. However, if you are concerned, you can use positive rewards when your child is not sucking their thumb to curb the behavior. Another approach is to look at what may be causing them to want to suck their thumbs. If it is a stress response, finding the source and giving them a suitable replacement may do the trick.
How can I clean my baby’s teeth naturally?
If you are looking for a more natural option for cleaning your baby’s teeth, organic toothpaste options are available. These brands are made without chemicals or dyes and generally do not contain Fluoride, which, even though it is deemed safe by the ADA, many parents would prefer not to use on their children under two. Talk to your dentist about your concerns, and they should be able to address your concerns.
Taking care of your baby’s teeth from the very beginning sets the tone for the rest of their dental health. Remember, creating a routine is an essential part of the process. Once you and your child create a routine, you can make brushing a fun experience. If they see taking care of their teeth as fun and essential, they will keep it up as they get older.
Looking for more tips for your little one? Head over to our Ages and Phases Section to see more topics.
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Krissy lives in California with her family of three that make up “The Hadicks.” With a passion for research and helping others, The Hadicks was developed as a resource for other parents and parents-to-be!