This topic has been well debated among parents over the generations. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “When should you brush baby teeth?”, then you’ve come to the right place for answers.
Should I be brushing my baby’s teeth and if so, when should I start?
What products do I use?
How do I instill good oral habits from a young age?
My suggestions and recommendations come from a Professional standpoint as well as from personal experience. I’m a Registered Dental Hygienist and love working with children. Again, each parent will choose what’s best for their baby/child based on their own traditions and customs. I’m merely here to provide valuable information, so you can make your decisions with the information provided in mind.
When to Start?
As with most things in life, the earlier you start, the better it is in the long run. Having a solid foundation is crucial to ensuring good brushing habits as a child and ultimately as an adult.
I started with my son almost immediately when he got home from the hospital. I didn’t start brushing right away, but I used a rag to wipe his gums twice a day (morning and night) every day.
Getting your baby used to a cleaning agent in his mouth will make brushing so much easier when their teeth do come in. Once I started using a toothbrush, the transition was so easy for him. There were no hesitations or “tantrums” because this was his usual routine.
Do You Have to Use a Toothbrush?
The short answer is NO.
Before your little one has teeth, there’s no need to use an actual toothbrush as this might be too hard on the gums.
You can use a clean wash rag to wipe the gums to remove milk residue. This is the cheapest option as you already have rags for your little one. You can also use a gum stimulator, which is rubber, so it’s a little more soothing on the gums. This will prepare your baby for the motion of the toothbrush.
I purchased a stage by stage toothbrush set that I picked up at Walmart. The first stage was just a rubber gum stimulator which works great to just get the brushing motion, while still removing residue. The second stage was still a rubber brush with rubber bristles. And the 3rd and final stage was an ultra soft bristled toothbrush.
There are also finger toothbrushes on the market that you can purchase to make brushing easier for both parent and child. The brush fits snug over your finger so you can get into smaller spaces in the mouth.
What about Fluoride?
This is a much debated topic!
Babies and young children don’t require as much fluoride as adults. Fluoride has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities but there are still many people who choose not to use fluoride based on either personal preference or because of their lack of knowledge.
Many kids toothpaste do not contain fluoride, and many of them contain very small amounts of fluoride. Always read the labels on your kids toothpaste. The fluoride content is lower than that of adult toothpastes.
Fluoride is not inherently bad for you, as it’s a natural mineral. Depending on where you live, your drinking water might contain fluoride as a preventative measure against tooth decay.
There are alternatives to fluoride that some people prefer to use. There are also many home remedies that have been used throughout history as a means of preventing tooth decay.
Toothpaste or Not?
Even though toothpaste is the general “go to” product used to brush your teeth, it is not the end all be all.
For babies especially, you must be very careful to not use too much toothpaste (about a rice grain), if you do at all.
It is recommended to only use toothpaste once your child can effectively expel the contents from their mouth through rinsing. As long as you rinse with water, that’s a good start.
Once you baby’s teeth do come in though, you might want to look into products to prevent tooth decay as baby teeth are just as susceptible, if not more.
What’s the Main Reason for Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth?
As mentioned earlier, prevention of cavities is the ultimate goal.
Many people don’t realize that baby teeth are more proned to cavities because the consumption of milk (which is essentially sugar) is so much higher.
Leaving milk on your baby’s teeth overnight should be a big “no no”. I know it’s not always possible to sneak that night brushing in after the bedtime feed, but try to slowly work it into your nightly routine. Your baby will thank you later 🙂
For babies with teeth who still get feeds in the middle of the night, the risk of cavities increases even more.
This is because cleaning your baby’s teeth in the middle of the night is the last thing on your mind when you just want to go back to sleep!
So always aim to brush every morning to remove all the leftover milk from the night before.
Baby teeth pave the way for the adult teeth so taking care of baby teeth is especially important.
So Should you be Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth?
A resounding YES! YES! YES!
Not only should you be brushing your baby’s teeth, but you also need to model proper brushing so your child can see the importance of it.
Do your research and find the safest baby brushes for your little one. The bristles should be very soft to prevent damage to the gums.
Before the teeth come in, you can use a clean wash rag or rubber stimulator to keep the gums clean and to get your baby into good brushing habits at an early age.
Good oral hygiene that is taught early on will usually transfer into adulthood. In a society that is so driven by appearance, you want to ensure that your child has the best possible foundation to have the best smile later on in life.
For many parents, growing up, their own parents weren’t as diligent with their oral hygiene. Why deprive your child of good oral habits when you have the necessary knowledge to teach them what’s right?
Share your thought below about your experience with brushing your child’s teeth. Was it a breeze? Was your child resistant? What are your thoughts on the fluoride debate? Thanks for reading 🙂