Brushing Baby Teeth: When To Start And How To Do It

Dental hygiene for baby teeth can often be easily neglected precisely because they’re temporary teeth and are soon to be replaced by permanent teeth. But, even though the baby’s primary teeth are there only for a limited amount of time, that doesn’t make them any less important for the time being. 

In fact, it’s vital that you keep good oral hygiene even in the earliest years of your child’s life. One of the main reasons is that without proper teeth maintenance the oral health and with that the overall health of the baby is put at risk. Improper oral hygiene might cause inflammation of the gums (commonly known as gingivitis), which, if left untreated, might lead to more serious infections. Other health concerns are the emergence of asthma and certain respiratory problems. Decayed teeth or ones lost before their time can also prevent the baby from feeding properly, and it can even affect their speech. Also, when temporary teeth are not “holding the spot” for the permanent teeth, it might make them come out crooked. 

Another important reason for keeping up with good oral hygiene is establishing healthy hygiene habits from early on. This means that, if established properly and on time, in the long run, your child will have a streak of good dental health throughout their whole life and it will have you to thank for it. 

That’s why next we’re going to tell you all about the essentials of baby teeth brushing and help you keep up with their oral hygiene. 

When to Start Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth?

This is one of the commonest questions that parents pose when their little one arrives in this world. The sooner you find out the answer the better for the baby because you should start brushing their teeth as soon as the first little tooth comes out through the gums. 

Usually, baby teeth start emerging around 6 months of age. Usually, the first teeth to emerge are the two bottom front teeth, followed by the top four front teeth. The other teeth come later on, slowly filling in, coming in pairs - one on each side of the jaw (up and down) - until all the teeth finally come out. There should be all in all 20 - 10 in the lower jaw and 10 in the upper jaw. Your child should have these primary teeth by the age of 2 and a half or 3. These teeth usually stay in their mouths up until the age of 6 or 7. 

How Should You Wash Your Baby’s Teeth? 

There are numerous great toothbrushes for brushing baby teeth out on the market right now, and the best ones you can check out here

When you’re going to start using a toothbrush, make sure it’s moistened before putting on the toothpaste. Put a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (a third of what you put for yourself, for example). The bristles on the toothbrush should be very soft and should have a maximum of three rows of bristles on them. Try to change the brushes every 2 to 4 months because they tend to get rough at the edges, or worn and splayed -  too much bacteria accumulates on them over time, so it’s always a good idea to replace them regularly. 

If you’re still struggling with choosing the right one for your little one, you can first start with the following: get a clean and damp gauze pad, a washcloth, or a finger brush (either one will do) and gently go through your baby’s first teeth, as well as the front of the tongue. Brush your baby’s teeth gently - the outsides as well as the insides. Because you’re using a small amount of toothpaste, there’s really no need to rinse. 

Washing baby teeth is especially recommended shortly after they have their daily meals and also shortly before bedtime (about 2-3 times a day).

You can also consult with your pediatrician (or pediatric dentist), as well as your pharmacist, so they can help you find the right toothbrush or finger brush for your little one’s emerging teeth. 

Should You Brush Your Baby’s Gums?

This is another common question when it comes to baby oral hygiene - many parents ask themselves should they wash their baby’s gums even before their teeth emerge. 

While the teeth are one of the most important parts to be kept in check when it comes to oral hygiene, the gums shouldn’t be neglected as well. Brushing the gums is a good idea especially when new teeth just start to protrude, but have not entirely emerged. 

Pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend that you clean your baby’s gums after feedings, even before any teeth start to show up. This helps fight the growth of bacteria in the baby’s teeth and promotes good oral health overall, setting up the scene for way beyond. 

If you’re wondering how to do clean the baby’s gums, try the following: take a soft and damp cloth or gauze (you can also use a soft silicone or rubber finger brush, but don’t use a regular baby toothbrush) and gently go through the gums. Do this after meals and around the same time of the day, so you can start developing the habit that you will transfer afterward to the brushing daily routine as well. 

Gum cleaning is also soothing for babies when the teething process starts - the regular feeling of the gentle pressure of your fingers will help them cope better with the often annoying and sometimes discomforting and painful process of teeth emergence. 

What Kind of Toothpaste Should You Use for Your Baby’s Teeth? 

Parents often ask about the kind of toothpaste they should use for their little one’s new teeth. Often opinions are torn between using fluoride and using fluoride-free toothpaste for babies. 

A lot of opinions are on the side of using a fluoride-based toothpaste, but it’s good to look for one with a certain amount of fluoride. 

The AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) does recommend the use of fluoride-based toothpaste because it’s so effective in preventing the emergence of cavities. They say it should be used even since the emergence of the baby’s first tooth (you shouldn’t wait for years before using one like it has been recommended in the past). 

If you want a limited amount of fluoride in the toothpaste, look for the fluoride levels on the packaging: babies under 3 years of age should use one with lower levels, but one that still contains around 1000 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. 

Fluoride is generally considered safe to use on very small babies who already have their first teeth. Above the age of 3, your child can also begin sharing the family toothpaste, which usually contains between 1350-1500 ppm. If your child doesn’t like the toothpaste’s usual minty flavor, you can always find a milder one. 

In the beginning use a small amount of toothpaste, usually a rice-grain size smear on the brush, which can get up to a pea-sized amount as your child gets older. You don’t have to worry if your baby happens to swallow some of the toothpaste (babies often do this, in fact) - small quantities of it shouldn't' cause any concern for their body. When your baby gets a little bit older, around the age of 2, you can also start teaching them to spit. 

When to Teach Your Baby to Brush? 

As we mentioned earlier, establishing good oral hygiene habits early on is crucial for a lifetime of good dental health for your child. 

When your baby sees you taking care of and brushing their teeth, soon they will also start imitating you and will want to try their take on it as well. Don’t hinder this desire even if it shows up too early, but make sure you’re right there to do a follow up with a thorough cleaning yourself until they learn to properly do it on their own. 

If you want to engage your child more when it comes to toothbrushing, you can try and get a brush that also looks like a toy (like a favorite character or something that has bright colors), something your little one will have fun with - apart from being a good toothbrush. You can also try singing some songs to soothe them or make the whole process more alluring by being playful and fun. 

What Other Ways are There to Protect Your Baby’s Teeth? 

When we talk about tooth decay we also have to talk about sugar. Yes, sugar is the number one culprit behind bad teeth and the frequent consumption of food rich in sugar content is a large contributor to the emergence of cavities and general tooth decay, which can also lead to gun inflammation. 

Sugar breaks down the mineral surface of your baby’s teeth. The more you feed them with sugary food, the less time and space the teeth have to properly repair from the effects of it on them. 

That’s why it’s best to significantly limit the sugar intake in your baby’s diet - try to feed them with as many natural ingredients as possible. Besides the breastmilk and the baby formula, the best drink for them is water. Avoid fruit juices, milk that’s flavored and also fizzy drinks. A healthy and balanced diet goes a long way for their bodies in general, and their teeth in particular. By keeping this up, we’re more than sure that your baby will thank you in the future!