Cleaning, Brushing, and Flossing
Even though your newborn doesn’t have its baby teeth yet, you should still clean their mouth regularly to avoid sticky plaque buildup, gum diseases, and infections such as Thrush.
- Begin by laying your baby on your lap, situated so that you are able to look directly into their mouth
- Using a clean and damp washcloth or gauze pad, carefully clean both the upper and lower gums.
- Clean as needed, particularly after feeding times and prior to bedtime.
When your baby’s first teeth erupt through their gums (typically between 6 months and 1 year), careful use of a toothbrush can begin.
- Look for a soft, baby-sized toothbrush with a small head and larger sized handle.
- Using only a small dab of water, gently brush all areas of the mouth to clear plaque and debris around your baby’s first teeth.
- Brush twice a day, particularly after feeding times and prior to bedtime.
As your baby’s early teeth begin to develop further (typically around 3 years of age), discuss with your pediatric dentist when to begin using American Dental Association (ADA) accepted children’s fluoride toothpaste.
- If recommended by your child’s dentist, use a pea sized amount of toothpaste and carefully brush your child’s teeth twice a day for around two minutes thoroughly.
- Holding at a 45-degree angle, brush the inside and outside surfaces of each tooth, both top and bottom, using short strokes.
- Hold the brush flat on the top of chewing surfaces and pay particular attention to the back of the mouth and molar teeth.
- Gently brush the tongue and rinse mouth with water to remove excess toothpaste and debris.
- When they are capable of safely holding their toothbrush, supervise and assist your child with their daily brushing routine.
- Remember to replace toothbrushes every 3 to 4 months or earlier if the bristles become excessively worn and frayed.
Once your child’s teeth fit closer together and begin touching (usually between the ages of 4 and 6), you should begin a once daily flossing routine.
- Toddlers often lack the finger dexterity to begin flossing on their own, so you should assist and then supervise when they are able to floss properly on their own.
- Use an accepted American Dental Association (ADA) floss and unwind approximately 18” across the middle fingers of both hands.
- Pinch the floss between each thumb and index finger to create a one inch segment to use on your child.
- Gently glide the floss segment between all of your child’s teeth. Using an up and down motion, lightly wrap floss around the sides of teeth until clean.
Preventing Your Baby From Cavities and Bottle Tooth Decay
Like adults, when babies have continuous exposure to sugar rich foods and liquids, it can lead to a myriad of oral health problems. Excessive sugar consumption promotes the growth of certain sugar feeding bacteria. Bacteria which in-turn produces teeth dissolving acids which eventually lead to infection and tooth decay. To avoid the development of cavities and tooth decay for your baby please follow some of these helpful tips:
- Place only formula, milk or breastmilk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water or juice.
- Refrain from placing your child in bed with a bottle, unless it is only water.
- Use clean pacifiers and never dip in sugar or honey.
- Encourage healthy eating and drinking choices for your child.
- Promote weaning your child off of suckling bottles altogether in favor of cups.
- Most importantly, practice a proper oral hygiene routine regularly.
Scheduling Your Baby’s First Dental Visit
Oral health problems can begin very early in your child’s development, so you should schedule your baby’s first visit to the dentist within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth and no later than the first birthday. In addition to examining your baby’s mouth, teeth, and gums, your dentist will identify your child’s fluoride needs and suggest a schedule for regular dental appointments. Developing this positive relationship between your baby and your dentist is fundamental for building a lifetime of good oral health.