When to Start Brushing Baby Teeth?

Ensuring good oral health is crucial for overall well-being, and guess what? It's not just for adults, but for little ones too! Once your baby's first tooth emerges, dental care becomes essential to their health routine.

In this blog post, we will delve deep into one of new parents' most commonly asked questions - "When to start brushing baby teeth?" Let's dive into why baby teeth are so important and how to know when it's time to start brushing them. We'll explore tips for choosing the right toothpaste and toothbrush and techniques to brush your baby's teeth like a pro!

Moreover, we'll point out some common mistakes parents make when brushing their baby's teeth and stress the importance of regular dental check-ups.

Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge and confidence to give your little one the best oral care right from the start.

Understanding Baby Teeth

Baby teeth, known as primary or milk teeth, play a vital role in your child's holistic development. They usually appear when your baby is between 6 and 12 months old

The two bottom front teeth (lower central incisors) are typically the first to emerge, followed by the two top front teeth (upper central incisors).

When your child is about three years old, they should have all 20 baby teeth. These teeth serve several essential functions. They help your child chew food properly, maintain good nutrition, and aid speech development.

Baby teeth serve as temporary placeholders for permanent teeth. They guide them into the correct position and help prevent future dental problems. If a baby tooth is lost too early, it can lead to crowded or crooked permanent teeth.

Even though baby teeth are temporary, they still need proper care. If you neglect oral hygiene during this stage, it can lead to tooth decay and cause pain and discomfort for your child. It can also affect the health of their permanent teeth.

When to Start Brushing Baby Teeth

The optimal time to start brushing your baby's teeth is as soon as they appear. This usually occurs when your baby is between 6 and 12 months old. However, even if there are no teeth yet, cleaning your baby's gums daily using a cotton ball is a good idea.

Brushing your baby's teeth should become a part of their daily routine, just like for adults. We recommend brushing your baby's teeth twice daily, once in the morning and once before bed. Each brushing session should last for 2 minutes.

When your baby has two teeth that touch each other, you can start using flossing as part of their oral hygiene routine.

The clearest sign to start brushing is when the first tooth appears. However, other signs could include:

  • your baby is drooling more than usual
  • showing discomfort in their mouth area

A soft-bristled baby toothbrush with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste will help keep your baby's teeth clean and healthy. 

It's important to note that fluoride can be toxic when consumed. If your baby accidentally ingests a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, consider using a non-fluoride alternative or a combination of both.

Choosing the Right Toothbrush and Toothpaste for Your Baby

When choosing a toothbrush for your baby, there are several factors to consider.

  • The toothbrush should have a small head and large handle so it's easy to hold and maneuver in your baby's mouth. 
  • The bristles should be soft and gentle on your baby's gums. 
  • We recommend replacing the toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the toothbrush's bristles are frayed.
  • As your child grows and gains more control over their motor skills, consider introducing a toothbrush with a handle designed for their little hands. This will help them gradually learn to brush their teeth independently.
  • Replace the toothbrush after an infection to avoid the risk of reinfection.

Regarding toothpaste, choose one that contains fluoride but has no:

  • artificial sweeteners
  • flavors
  • colors

Fluoride is crucial in preventing tooth decay, but it's important to use it sparingly for young children. For kids under three, use a tiny smear of toothpaste similar to the size of a grain of rice. When your child is between 3 and 6, you can increase it to a pea-sized dab.

Remember, the goal is to maintain your baby's oral hygiene and make brushing a fun and enjoyable experience for them. So, consider toothbrushes and toothpaste with appealing designs or flavors made explicitly for kids.

How to Brush Baby Teeth

Brushing your baby's teeth may seem complicated at first, but it will become a routine with time and practice. Here's a simple step-by-step guide on how to brush baby teeth properly:

Choose the Right Time: The best time to brush your baby's teeth is after their morning meal and bedtime.

Position Your Baby: You can sit infants on your lap with their heads resting against your chest. For toddlers, stand behind them as they look into the mirror so they can learn by watching you.

Start Brushing: Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Gently brush in small circles. Be sure to cover all surfaces of the teeth – the outer surface, the inner surface, and the chewing surface. Also, don't forget to brush the tongue gently.

Spit Out Toothpaste: Encourage your child to spit the toothpaste after brushing. There's no need to rinse with water, as the remaining fluoride toothpaste continues to protect their teeth.

Make It Fun: To make the brushing process more enjoyable, you can sing songs, tell stories, or use a toothbrush that plays music or has your favorite character on it.

Your role is important in setting a good example and making oral hygiene a positive experience for your child.  

Common Mistakes Parents Make When Brushing Baby Teeth

There are several common mistakes that parents often make. Awareness of these can help you avoid them and ensure your child's oral health is in the best possible condition.

Letting Your Child Brush Unattended

While it's important to foster independence, young children typically require additional dexterity to effectively brush their teeth until around the ages of 6 to 8. Until then, parents should provide assistance and supervision during the brushing process.

Tip: Dealing with tantrums while trying to help toddlers brush their teeth can be challenging. However, one effective approach is to engage them by letting them brush your teeth while you brush theirs. This way, you can peacefully complete the task while making it a fun and interactive experience for both of you.

Putting Off The First Dentist Appointment

Many parents wait too long for their child's first dental visit. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises the first dental appointment within six months of the first tooth or by the child's first birthday.

By following this advice, parents can ensure their child's oral health starts right from the beginning. It will also help in familiarizing your baby with their dentist and the new environment.

Tip: Consider taking your child with you to your regular dental appointments. This way, they can observe and get comfortable with the process before their first visit.

Bedtime Bottle

Bedtime bottle feeding can lead to "bottle caries," a dental condition that should be avoided for a child's oral health. This happens when the sugars from milk or juice stay on the baby's teeth for hours, eating away at the enamel.

Tip: If your baby requires a bottle before bedtime, make sure it only contains water. The lack of sugar will prevent any potential tooth decay and help protect their developing teeth.

Unhealthy Drinks

Even seemingly healthy drinks, like fruit juice, often contain extremely excessive amounts of sugar, which can contribute to tooth decay. Opting for water is the wisest choice to safeguard dental and overall health.

Tip: Encourage your child to drink water instead of sugary drinks by making it easily accessible and fun. You can use colorful straws or add slices of fruit for added flavor.

Thumb Sucking

Many children resort to thumb-sucking as a way to cope with stress or anxiety. However, this innocent habit can cause major issues with dental development if not stopped at an early age.

Tip: Try to find the root cause of your child's stress and address it instead of allowing them to continue thumb-sucking. You can also try using a pacifier as an alternative, but make sure to wean them off by age 2.

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Some children may develop a habit of grinding their teeth, especially while they sleep. This leads to wear and tear on their teeth, along with headaches and jaw pain. This is especially heightened after a long, intense, or emotional day.

Tip: Try incorporating a calming bedtime routine and steer clear of excessive stimulation two hours before bedtime.

Not Replacing Toothbrush Regularly

To maintain optimal oral hygiene, we recommend replacing your baby’s toothbrush every three to four months or earlier if the bristles become frayed. Using an old toothbrush can reduce its cleaning effectiveness and potentially harbor harmful bacteria. 

It's important to remember to replace your child's toothbrush after they have recovered from an infection.

Waiting Too Long to Start Regular Brushing

It is important to initiate regular tooth brushing as soon as the first tooth emerges. Delaying until a child has a full set of teeth can heighten the likelihood of tooth decay.

It will also be more difficult to instill the right habits if you wait too long. Let the brushing become a natural part of their life.

Mistakes in oral hygiene can lead to many problems, such as: 

  • tooth decay
  • gum disease
  • other serious health issues later in life 

That's why it's crucial to develop good oral hygiene habits early on.

Regular Dental Check-Ups for Babies

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it is recommended to take your baby for their first dental visit either within six months after their first tooth emerges or by their first birthday. Early dental check-ups are important for several reasons.

  • The dentist may examine your baby's mouth and detect potential problems early. Tooth decay might start as soon as the first tooth appears, making regular check-ups essential from a young age.
  • The dentist can provide advice on oral hygiene practices, diet, and habits like thumb sucking. This information can help you maintain your baby's oral health between visits.
  • Early dental visits help acclimate your child to the dentist's office, reducing fear and anxiety around dental care as they grow older.

As a parent, prioritize your baby's dental well-being from the beginning to establish a strong foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits.

Family Dentistry at Nova Dental

Nova Dental is a family dentistry practice in Winchester, MA, offering a wide range of dental services, including pediatric dentistry. Our trained team understands the unique needs of children and are dedicated to making each visit comfortable, fun, and educational.

Starting from the eruption of your child's first tooth, Nova Dental is there for every milestone. We provide a comprehensive range of services, including:

  • oral health care
  • regular check-ups
  • preventive treatments like sealants and fluoride varnish
  • educational tools and resources

One of the key features of Nova Dental is our child-friendly environment. We understand that a dental office can be intimidating for little ones, so we've designed our space to be welcoming and engaging. This helps children feel more at ease during their visits.

At Nova Dental, we believe in forming positive associations with dental care early on. Through gentle care and a patient approach, we help children build good oral hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.

Remember, the importance of regular dental check-ups cannot be overstated. It plays a crucial role in maintaining your child's oral health and detecting potential issues early on. Contact Nova Dental. You can have peace of mind knowing that your child's oral health is in good, capable hands.

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