It’s always a good time to remind parents and parents-to-be that baby teeth need a little love and attention, too! After all, good oral hygiene is a matter of habit and habits that are formed young tend to stick.
That said, caring for your baby’s gums and eventual teeth isn’t quite the same as with older children and adults. Here are some tips to help parents get through those early years the right way!
How do I brush when my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?
You start with the gums. Even those can build up milk/formula residue and as their baby teeth start to erupt, keeping clean gums is ever more important. Formula in particular, but even breast milk, has some sugar in it and needs to be cleaned off every day. You don’t need to use an actual brush and don’t use toothpaste: just a moist cloth or some gauze will do the trick.
As time goes by, it’s important to start teaching kids good oral hygiene techniques. That means brushing morning and afternoon with an extra soft bristle brush. You’re probably thinking, “My twelve-month-old only has five teeth. Is this really necessary?” You still need to clean off the plaque, and the bacteria that it contains, every single day. Tooth decay in baby teeth can lead to issues with the adult teeth as well, so just because they’re going to fall out doesn’t mean they should be ignored!
Kids won’t be able to brush independently for a while—usually around age 7—but in addition to helping them brush, you should also be modeling good oral hygiene by letting them watch when you’re brushing too!
Should I be using toothpaste with my baby?
At first, no. At age 2, you can start to add a rice grain sized amount of fluoride paste, eventually getting to a pea-sized amount at age 3. It doesn’t need to be a lot and it’s important to try to avoid them swallowing too much paste if any. Rinse and spit need to become new favorite words at your house!
When should I start flossing my toddler’s teeth?
When you have two teeth next to each other, it’s time to bring out the flossing sticks! This typically occurs anywhere from ages 2 to 6. Standard floss is doable too, but some parents find it difficult to get their hands in to do the molars as they start to come in. Kids can start to floss on their own at around age 8 or 9.
When should kids start going to the dentist?
Everyone and their mother has different advice about this question; most dentists will probably say around age 1. Early visits are helpful if only to acclimate a child to the idea of going to the dentist and that they don’t need to be frightened. Another option is to bring them along when you’re going for your cleaning so that they can see it’s no big deal. While some children do need dental work fairly early on, most children cannot sit through an actual exam much before the age of 3. Semi-annual cleanings can start at age 4.
That said, if you notice that your child’s teeth are coming in crooked or on top of one another, or if you have any other concerns about their teeth developing, do not hesitate to contact your dentist. They’ll be able to tell you what’s normal and what will need to be watched.
Good habits start young so get your kids used to twice daily brushing and, eventually, flossing!