So, you’re a first-time parent. Your little one is growing and developing as they should. That’s great! Despite them being healthy, however, you still have some questions as things are still new to you. Perhaps your infant just got their very first tooth. Maybe it’s still making its way through the surface. But, as you know, teeth need to be cared for. So, you’re probably wondering at this point, “What do I use to clean my baby’s teeth, and how exactly do I clean them?” We’ll give you the run-down! First thing’s first: let’s talk about when you’re supposed to start caring for your baby’s tooth or teeth.
Do I Wait Until My Child’s First Tooth Fully Erupts to Brush it?
This is a very common question. If anything, there are many misconceptions surrounding when to start brushing your child’s teeth.
No, you don’t wait until their first tooth completely erupts. And, no, you don’t wait until they have more than one tooth that has come through. The answer is, as soon as you can see part of your child’s first tooth busting through their gum tissue, it’s time to begin the brushing process.
Let’s backtrack a bit, though: even when your child doesn’t have teeth at all, you must clean their gums a couple of times a day with a clean, damp washcloth. Besides a washcloth, you can also use a gauze pad or a finger brush to wipe away oral bacteria and milk residue from your baby’s gums. This gives their teeth a healthy start and a clean, safe foundation for them to grow through when they do begin to erupt. Just like baby teeth are important, the health of the gums early on in life is vital too. Early care can set your little one up for beautiful, healthy teeth later in life.
What Do I Clean My Baby’s Teeth with?
Now that you know when to start brushing your infant’s teeth (or tooth), it’s critical to understand how to clean those tiny pearly whites.
The right tool to use once your child’s first tooth begins to erupt is a baby toothbrush. Never use a normal-sized toothbrush. Not only is a normal toothbrush too large for a baby’s oral cavity, let alone, their teeth, but the bristles are too scratchy and rough for their soft, sensitive gums. On the other hand, a toothbrush designed for babies is the perfect size. In addition, the bristles are much softer yet are still strong enough to sweep away unwanted oral pests from your child’s teeth and gums. Use a baby brush on your child’s teeth similarly to how you’d brush your own teeth but perhaps in more gentle motions.
But it’s just not a toothbrush you need; it’s also time to introduce fluoride toothpaste to your little one. Again, stick with an infant-friendly paste. Luckily, you won’t need to use more than a grain of rice-sized squirt of toothpaste during each brushing session. For babies, a little can go a long way!
How Often Do I Clean My Baby’s Teeth?
Most people are aware that it’s a general guideline for us to brush our teeth twice a day. Normally, we brush our teeth in the morning upon waking and again before we head off to bed.
The same applies to infants once you start brushing their teeth for the first time. Because babies and toddlers tend to have different sleeping schedules than us adults, follow the same guidelines as above: brush when they wake up (preferably after their first meal of the day) and again before they go to bed for the night.
When Do I Start Flossing My Child’s Teeth?
At some point, a child gets introduced to the act of flossing their teeth. But like with toothbrushing, a child starts out having one of their parents floss their teeth for them before they start flossing their own teeth. When does this occur, however, you wonder?
Once your child has two adjacent teeth, you can begin the flossing process. Because floss is so small and can be difficult to maneuver for a child that has yet to better develop their fine motor skills, it’s best for parents to do this on their behalf. It might be easier for the parent to use floss picks on their child, which have a handle with a piece of floss attached, versus using traditional string floss.
As a child gets older and begins to care more for themselves, floss picks are also an easy and fun way to get your child to floss their own teeth.
It’s really never too early to start flossing, as long as there is a region in your child’s mouth that can be flossed! Like with brushing the teeth, flossing twice a day is recommended (or whenever necessary). This can help reduce the chances of your child developing tooth decay or gum disease in the future.
When Should My Child Start Brushing Their Own Teeth?
Around the age of six is when children can start brushing their own teeth. Some children may have the manual dexterity before age six to brush on their own. However, other children might be a bit delayed; every child is different.
Regardless of when your child begins to brush their own teeth, it’s a good idea to observe your child’s brushing habits until they’re approximately eight years old.
Notice how hard, how fast, and how long your child brushes their teeth for. Correct them if they are brushing too hard or fast (as this can damage their tooth enamel and also damage the bristles on their toothbrush). Are they brushing all teeth and all angles of their teeth (front, back, top/bottom)? Are they also brushing their gums and their tongue? Are they using the right motion when brushing? Also take note of what they do when they’re done brushing their teeth. Are they properly rinsing and spitting? Are they swallowing their toothpaste? Do they forget to rinse off their toothbrush after brushing? Does your child properly store their toothbrush after use?
No child is going to be the perfect brusher, but that’s where you, the parent, come in. They learn from the best! Gently correcting them can make them the best tooth-brusher possible. The last thing you want is for them to brush improperly and risk getting a cavity or damaging their baby teeth. If these bad brushing habits continue without correction, they may risk damaging their permanent teeth in the near future. That being said, do make sure to keep an eye on them while they’re brushing (and flossing).
Ensure Your Child’s Teeth are Healthy with a Pediatric Dental Visit
You know the answer to, “How do I clean my baby’s teeth?” and what to clean their teeth with. So, you might assume your child’s teeth are going to be healthy enough with these tooth-cleaning habits alone. However, nobody can tell you how healthy your child’s teeth are except for a pediatric dentist. (They don’t have to specialize in pediatrics, but a pediatric dentist is often the best choice for children.)
Biannual dental visits, no matter how healthy your child’s teeth might appear, are critical. A thorough examination, a deep-cleaning, x-rays, and fluoride treatments can ensure your child’s teeth are healthy as can be.
How you care for your little one’s teeth now can very much affect how healthy their teeth are in the near and far future. Not to mention, the way you care for your child’s teeth now can get them in the habit of properly caring for their own teeth on their own. So, start as soon as possible!