Brushing Baby's Teeth: When To Start And How To Clean

Brushing Baby's Teeth

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Your baby will start growing teeth after he turns six months old. His almost toothless smile, with just a couple of teeth showing, is the most adorable thing to capture on a camera. But with those cute, teeny-tiny teeth comes the responsibility of keeping them clean and healthy.

Brushing is the best and the simplest way to keep a baby’s teeth healthy. But is your baby ready for it? When should you start brushing your baby’s teeth and how? MomJunction answers any queries you might have about brushing your baby’s teeth.

When To Start Brushing A Baby’s Teeth?

Pediatric experts recommend brushing your baby’s teeth immediately after the first tooth appears (1). The first teeth to appear are the lower central incisors, which usually emerge around the eighth month (2).

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What Will You Need To Brush A Baby’s Teeth?

You will require the following things to brush your baby’s teeth:

  1. Soft bristle toothbrush: A toothbrush specifically designed for infants, with a small head, and only a few rows of bristles is ideal for just a few teeth.
  1. Fluoridated toothpaste: You can use any fluoridated toothpaste. Give preference to those specially made for infants. Choose a fluoridated toothpaste without any added flavoring, or strong taste.

Avoid fingertip brush, which you can wear on the finger to clean your baby’s teeth. A finger brush may not reach all parts of the baby’s tiny mouth and is not as good as an infant toothbrush.

Along with the right toothbrush, you will need to know the right methods of brushing the baby’s teeth to avoid hurting him.

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How To Brush A Baby’s Teeth?

Here is how you should brush a baby’s teeth (3) (4):

[ Read: How To Soothe Sore Gums In Babies ]

  1. Sit on a sofa or bed with your baby’s head in your lap. Make sure there is adequate lighting so that you can see inside the.
  1. Take a clean, soft towel dipped in cold drinking water, and run it over the teeth and gums of the baby. It helps dampen the gums and also clear any food debris. You can also use dental wipes in place of a towel.
  1. Apply rice grain-sized toothpaste on the infant’s toothbrush and very gently brush the baby’s teeth and gums for one minute. Bacteria can harbor between gums, so it is important to clean them as well.
  1. After brushing, gently clean the tongue without applying any pressure. A layer of milk solids can stay on the tongue and cleaning it can help prevent bacteria from harboring on it.
  1. Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly and leave it out to dry, preferably under direct sunlight. There is no need to rinse the baby’s mouth with water since the amount of toothpaste is too little to require rinsing.

Your baby may initially be uncomfortable getting his teeth brushed, but eventually will get used to it. Also, brushing can soothe a teething baby’s sore gums. Then again, there could be scenarios when the baby does not like brushing at all.

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What To Do If The Baby Dislikes Brushing Teeth?

If your baby repeatedly resists brushing, then you can use the following steps to deal with it.

  • Use a distraction: If your baby tends to shake and move during brushing, then ask your partner to hold a toy straight up to hold the baby’s gaze. It will keep the baby steady for a minute, while you finish brushing.
  • Talk to your baby or sing a song: Look straight into your baby’s eyes and talk or sing to him while brushing teeth. This will make the baby keep his head straight.
  • Let him explore the toothbrush: Let the baby hold the toothbrush and become familiar with it. Once you have his attention, you can start brushing his teeth.
  • Show him brushing your teeth: Brush your teeth while the baby watches to let him know that it is safe and doesn’t hurt. This tactic works with older infants who have started to observe and imitate their parents and can communicate a little.

Once your baby gets used to brushing, you will face minimal fuss and resistance. But how frequently must you brush a baby’s teeth?

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[ Read: Baby Teeth Discoloration ]

How Many Times Should You Brush The Baby’s Teeth?

The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day for children below the age of three years (5). You can brush your baby’s teeth once in the morning and at night.

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Should You Clean The Baby’s Gums Before Teeth Emerge?

Yes. Pediatric experts recommend cleaning your baby’s gums a few days after birth. Use a wet gauze pad, clean and soft towel, or dental wipes for babies to clean the baby’s gums twice a day. Once your baby’s teeth are out, you can start brushing the teeth as well.

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What If The Baby’s Teeth Bleed While Brushing?

Bleeding while brushing is a sign of infection in the gums (6). Observe the gums for other symptoms of infection such as inflammation and tenderness. Regular brushing should help ease the condition. But if you see no respite in a couple of days, then take the infant to a dentist.

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What Is The Right Age To Take A Baby To A Dentist?

Take the baby to a dentist right after his first tooth emerges. You must wait no later than the infant’s first birthday to get a dental checkup, preferably by a pediatric dentist (7).

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Should You Brush The Baby’s Teeth After Feeding Milk?

It is not necessary to brush the baby’s teeth after every feed. Brushing twice a day is sufficient to keep his teeth healthy and protect gums from cavities.

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[ Read: Baby Teeth Guide ]

Can Exclusively Breastfed Infants Get Cavities?

Yes. Babies who mostly drink breast milk can get dental caries or develop gum problems due to infection. For this reason, experts recommend caring for the baby’s teeth and gums regardless of their diet (8).

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Do Certain Foods Cause Tooth Decay In Babies?

Yes. High-sugar foods such as fruit juices, sodas, and flavored milk can cause dental caries in babies. Leaving the milk bottle in the baby’s mouth for long hours can also cause tooth decay (9).

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Can You Brush A Baby’s Teeth With Coconut Oil?

No. It is best to use a standard toothpaste. Medical experts state that there is no evidence that coconut oil is good for teeth (10). An over-the-counter fluoridated toothpaste is the safest option.

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Why Should You Use Fluoridated Toothpaste For Your Baby?

Fluoride fights dental cavities and also in strengthening the tooth enamel (11). Baby teeth may be temporary, but they need fluoride to stay cavity-free. Also, stronger baby teeth eventually pave the way for healthy permanent teeth.

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How Can You Protect A Baby’s Teeth From Decay?

Here are some tips to prevent dental caries in babies:

  • Do not let the baby go to bed or stay for an extended duration with a bottle of formula in the mouth. The milk accumulates inside, causing bacterial infection of gums and teeth, called bottle feeding decay or nursing bottle caries (12).
  • Do not give high sugar drinks such as fruit juices and soda to the baby. They are not recommended for babies since they can cause other health problems as well (13) (14).
  • Do not dip pacifiers in sugar syrup before giving it to the baby. It can cause dental problems (15).
  • Giving fluoride water can help protect the teeth from decay. Tap water usually contains fluoride.

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[ Read: Baby Amber Teething Necklaces ]

Regular brushing and dental visits are essential to ensure that the baby’s teeth are in a healthy condition. Caring for the gums, along with the teeth, is also vital. Take these measures to keep the baby’s oral cavity clean and healthy so that your baby can eventually have an adorable and sparkling smile.

Do you have any more dental care tips for our moms? Share them in our comments section.

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Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo took writing as a profession right after finishing his MBA in Marketing. Earlier he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Botany & Zoology from the autonomous St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. This botanist-zoologist turned writer excels at life sciences, and at MomJunction he writes everything about pediatrics and maternal care. In between writing and being overly curious, he spends time cooking, reading, and playing video games. LinkedIn profile – linkedin.com/in/rohit-garoo-263115aa
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