Parenting is a series of firsts. Some are mind blowing and full of pure joy, and others are some of the most challenging things you will ever face – at the time. Teething can feel like it’s never going to end; sleep is a thing of the past, and your baby will never be happy again. Rest assured, life goes on, and your baby has many more milestones to face!
Taking care of your baby’s teeth should start before their first tooth makes an appearance. Knowing when to start brushing your child’s teeth isn’t as complicated as you might think.
Taking care of gummy smiles
Although you may not be brushing your baby’s teeth, as they haven’t surfaced yet, there is no reason why you cannot start cleaning their gums from their newborn days onwards.
You see, as soon as precious breastmilk or formula swirls around your baby’s gums and tooth bed, sugary deposits cling to any surface they can. When left alone to fester, these sugars can grow acidic bacteria that can cause anything from stinky breath to tooth decay.
Fortunately, all you need to do is wipe away the sugars – either with a clean, damp cloth or a specially formulated baby wipe. You can do this after each feed or first thing in the morning and before bed.
For some babies, the teething stage is a walk in the park. One minute your little cherub is producing more dribble than you’d ever think possible; the next, they are sporting a collection of incisors.
Nothing is universal when it comes to the pain we experience. However, there are some telltale signs to look out for:
- Sore, red gums
- Everything from the remote to the cat is in their mouth!
- Often rubbing one ear
- One flushed cheek
- More fretful and less easy to soothe
- Don’t forget the dribble!
From soothing and cooling teething rings to munching on a spatula, there are many things that can help distract or minimise teething pain for your baby. When nothing else seems to help, you may want to consider pain relief medicines as recommended by your pharmacist or doctor.
You know your baby best. If at any point you are concerned that they are in too much pain or not responding to any of the techniques, speak to your health visitor or GP for the best advice.
Hello first tooth
Now that your baby’s first tooth has appeared, you can introduce brushing into their daily routine. Either use a soft-bristled round-headed toothbrush or a silicone finger brush to get started.
Don’t worry about perfection at this point. It’s more about getting your baby comfortable with the toothbrushing experience. You may notice that your baby likes to chew on their brush, and you may need to replace it fairly often.
A few simple tips to get started:
- Sit your child on your lap, as the proximity to you will help them feel more at ease
- Brush at a 45-degree angle, and make sure you brush each surface of the teeth
- Make brushing part of bathtime – that way, you are instilling the idea of routine
- If you choose to use a baby-appropriate toothpaste, don’t use more than a grain of rice sized amount
It is worth bearing in mind that your baby’s milk teeth play an essential role in the alignment and placement of their permanent teeth as they develop. Taking care of their teeth now will help establish good oral hygiene practice into adulthood. No pressure.
Make brushing routine
Dentists the world over recommend that everyone, no matter what their age, brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day. Establishing a good baby tooth care routine now will not only keep your little one’s mouth as healthy as possible, but it will leave little room for tantrums too.
Like any routine, as your child gets older, you will need to make the odd tweak. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
- Mornings can go from calm and tranquil to rushed in a blink of an eye when you have a baby. So instead of “making the time,” have a routine in place. It could look like this: wake up, nappy change, milk, breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed and so on
- Bedtime, on the other hand, could look like this: dinner, bath and brushing, pyjamas, milk, story and sleep
- Stick to a bedtime for consistency
- Boundaries are set with routine, so keep it simple but keep it the same each night
With any routine, the more fun it is, the more likely your baby will want to get involved. So make up toothbrushing songs to their favourite nursery rhyme, read them stories such as Duggee: The Tooth Brushing Badge, and don’t forget to get involved!
Whether you let your little one brush your teeth, imitate your technique or let them watch themselves in a mirror, there are a lot of tricks to keep up your sleeve!
Don’t neglect the dentist
Your baby’s got their first tooth – check. Now you need to book their first appointment with the dentist. Like all significant milestones, making sure your baby’s teeth are developing well should be a top priority.
The more familiar your child is with their dentist and the process, the easier future visits will be. There’s a reason why dentists have become the boogeyman for some children over the years, after all.
Not only will your dentist give you well-researched advice on tooth care, but they will tell you how things such as lifestyle can affect your baby’s overall oral health. What’s more, your dentist will be able to catch any potential decay or dental concerns before they can get worse.
Whether your child needs extra dental care or you need peace of mind that you are brushing their teeth the right way, your dentist will be only too happy to help.
Has your baby cut their first tooth yet? Brushing is the first step to securing your child’s oral health for the future.