When my children were old enough to start brushing their own teeth, I taught them to hum “Happy Birthday” twice so they would know they brushed their teeth for long enough. But I knew I had to start the brushing routine before that stage if I wanted to ingrain the importance of oral care. I didn’t want to give a toddler a reason to say, “no,” especially with something as important as teeth. Yes, infant oral care begins before a baby has teeth!
Before Teeth Come In
Before your baby cuts his or her first tooth, which usually occurs sometime between 5 and 8 months of age, according to the National Institutes of Health, you probably are already familiar with the gummy teething performed on your finger. When your baby starts doing this, use that as your cue to brush the gums. Take a wet washcloth and wipe all around the gums. Treat this as a playtime activity, complete with singing, if you would like. Your baby will probably enjoy biting on the washcloth. This sets a fun precedent for a future of healthy baby teeth and healthy oral care. Wipe his or her gums with a washcloth after feedings.
Once teeth start coming in, you may want to transition from the washcloth to a baby toothbrush – and a toothpaste. Tom’s of Maine’s new Toddler Training toothpaste is specially formulated for age 3-24 months – and it’s safe if swallowed! Once your child reaches 24 months, transition to another natural toothpaste, like Tom’s of Maine’s Silly Strawberry toothpaste, which you can continue using throughout his or her childhood.
How to Brush
Put your baby on your lap, facing away from you. Brush the teeth from behind, making sure to support your baby’s head. When you brush, focus your efforts between the gums and teeth—that’s the most important area. Consult with your pediatrician or dental health professional about frequency, and if you should add flossing to your child’s routine.
Visiting the Dentist
At 12 months, your baby is old enough to visit the dentist, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. It’s important to take your child to the dentist regularly. Cavities are a common concern with children, and they are preventable with proper infant oral care that continues throughout childhood and the teen years. Tooth decay is a big problem for little kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in four children have tooth decay by the time they enter kindergarten.
Do you have any tips for taking care of a baby’s teeth in a fun way? Let us know what you do in the comments below.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons