Toddlers’ teeth are so sparkly white. They seem to glisten all the time, even without brushing. So when should you start brushing your child’s teeth? Actually, dental care starts before your baby is even born, and good oral hygiene begins right after birth.
Dental Care in the Womb
The teeth do not start to poke through until several months after birth. But a set of teeth is in place, waiting for their cue, when your baby is born. The teeth usually start to form in the gums during the second trimester of pregnancy. To encourage the development of good, strong teeth, expectant mothers should eat a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in calcium. Many pregnant women also take calcium supplements.
Infant Oral Hygiene
Gently wipe your baby’s gums with a washcloth or sterile gauze at least once a day. This prevents bacterial buildup in the mouth. Once an infant is on solid foods, it is important to start an early pattern of healthy eating. Emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains (in an appropriate form for babies, of course).
Many parents give their children far too many sweet “treats.” This promotes tooth decay, as well as poor eating habits. Besides avoiding too much candy, cookies and ice cream, watch out for sodas and sweetened fruit drinks. Even unsweetened fruit juice can hurt the teeth if it is given in large quantities.
Do not put babies to sleep with a bottle. Milk, formula and juice all contain sugars that can cause baby-bottle tooth decay. If you feel you must give a bottle when your baby goes to sleep, only fill it with water.
Brushing Baby’s Teeth
Use the gum-wiping method until your baby has two or more teeth. Then you can get a baby toothbrush or continue cleaning with a cloth. Around age 2, when all 20 of the baby teeth are in, start brushing with fluoride toothpaste. Squeeze out only a tiny dab of paste, since the child will not be able to rinse and spit for another year or two. Let your children start brushing their teeth as soon as they are interested, but don’t leave them unsupervised. You will need to “finish” the job until the child is 6 or 7.
The First Dental Visit
Check the teeth frequently for signs of decay, such as discoloration, spots or stains. If there is a problem, take your child to the dentist. Otherwise, the first dental visit is recommended between age 1 and 2. An early dental visit will help identify and prevent decay, gum disease or other potential problems.