Just like brushing your teeth twice a day is second nature to you, it should become part of your baby’s daily routine - both to get her into good habits and to keep each tooth that emerges healthy, clean and strong.
And with tooth decay on the rise (12 per cent of three year olds show some signs of it), starting early is vital to ensure your tot grows up to have healthy teeth for life.
Even if she’s only got one milk tooth poking through, try to get in the habit of brushing that sole pearly white – and remember her gums.
Don’t panic if you don’t actually get much brushing done, the main aim is to get yourself and your baby into a dental care routine.
When To Start Brushing
Your baby’s first tooth will appear anytime between the age of four months and 10 months. It may take longer – it’s different for every baby and your little one will get there in her own time.
“All teeth need to be cleaned twice a day from day one to avoid the build-up of plaque and prevent tooth decay, but at this stage care of toothless gums is also important,’ says Dominique Tillen, founder of Brush Baby.
You can even get in early and start looking after your baby’s mouth and gums before her teeth begin to come through.
“Keeping gums clean and in good condition can offer several benefits before and during teething,” says Dominique.
“It helps reduce the build-up of bacteria and prepares for a healthier environment for new baby teeth. Plus it helps avoid teething pain caused by gum infections and inflammation during teething.”
You can clean your baby’s gums easily, by using cooled boiled water and a clean cloth or with specially designed dental wipes.
“Gently wipe all of the surfaces of your baby’s mouth, including the cheeks, gums and tongue,” says Dominique.
Why Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth Is Important
Keeping your little one’s gums clean will remove any bits of food and milk, to get rid of any bacteria build-up – and ultimately help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
“Tooth decay in a child is just as painful as it is for adult and also can impact their schooling, social life and self-confidence later in life,’ says Dominique.
“Baby teeth also act as space holders for the adult teeth making sure these emerge in the correct place – they affect the way your child’s jaw grows which helps give the face its shape and form, ultimately influencing how she’ll look,’ says Dominique.
How To Clean Your Baby’s Teeth
Brush your baby’s teeth exactly as you would your own – but more gently.
“All children should have their teeth brushed by and adult until they're at least seven years old,” says Dominique.
“Young children are developing and they often lack the dexterity to perform a correct brushing technique. I suggest that when your child can write her name (and not just print it), she’s ready to brush her own teeth.”
Here's how to do it:
1. Sit your baby up on your lap with her head resting against your chest for support.
2. Squeeze a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste onto your finger and rub it on your baby’s gums gently, using circular motions. Once your child’s eating solids and a little older, increase the amount you use to the size of a pea.
3. Brush your baby’s teeth for two minutes, spending 30 seconds on each of the four areas of her mouth. This includes both the top right and left sides and the bottom right and left sides.
4. Don’t rinse her mouth out after, but see if she’ll spit any of the toothpaste out and wipe any excess around her mouth.
5. If your baby isn’t the world’s biggest tooth-brushing fan, make it more fun by using a brightly coloured toothbrush featuring cartoon characters. And buy a toothpaste that your tot likes the taste of.
You could also try playing a two-minute-long song that she likes to distract her. It will also help you time how long you’ve been brushing for.
6. If it doesn’t go to plan, don't beat yourself up. You’ll have plenty of time to practise your technique.
Visiting The Dentist
If you’re worried that your baby’s teeth or gums aren’t as healthy as they could be, book her in for a check up at the dentist.
NHS dental treatment for children is free and as soon as her teeth start coming through you can make an appointment to check everything’s OK – and put your mind at ease.
[Signs Your Baby Is Teething]
[New Mummy Blog: Teething Time Is Upon Us]
Any other tips for brushing a baby’s teeth? Share them in the comments.