Caring for your child’s first teeth

November 12, 2014

Even before baby's first tooth appears you should think about your child's oral hygiene. Otherwise that toothless smile might carry into adulthood! How should you care for a child's first teeth?

Caring for your child’s first teeth

They’re coming. Your baby is drooling and fussing. You can see the first tooth bud popping through the gum, and know soon that the pink smile will be replaced by a toothy one.

You'll want to make sure that good oral hygiene is part of your child’s routine from the very beginning. Even though baby teeth will give way to adult ones, they need to stay healthy and intact so your child can chew and talk without problems.

So where should you start?

Before the teeth come in

Your child's oral care routine should begin before your baby’s teeth appear.

  • It’s a good idea to keep baby's gums free of bacteria, gently wiping them twice a day with a soft, moistened washcloth or gauze. Too much bacteria in the mouth can damage the teeth when they arrive.

What you'll need

To brush baby’s pearlies you’ll need a soft toothbrush with a small head and large handle, as well as fluoride toothpaste.

  • To avoid using too much fluoride, take a thin smear of toothpaste or a dot the size of a grain of rice and put it on the brush. Kids under three need about .25 milligrams of fluoride per day. The mineral helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel.
  • According to the Canadian Dental Association, while fluoride is important, too much may cause dental fluorosis which could potentially damage tooth enamel. That's why it's important to know if your child is getting fluoride from other sources—like municipal drinking water.

Your brushing technique

You should brush baby’s teeth twice a day—once in the morning and again in the evening, after she has had her last drink.

  • Use small, gentle circular brushing movements, focusing on where the teeth and gums meet.
  • Remember that your baby’s gums will feel tender during teething, so don’t brush too vigorously.

You may find that having your baby sit on your lap, facing away from you, makes it easier to reach her teeth.

  • When finished brushing, make sure the child spits out the toothpaste. No need to rise or floss at this stage.

Be on the lookout

As the teeth come in, beware of any baby tooth decay—brown or white spots or pits. If you notice any problems, take your child to a pediatric dentist for an exam.

  • Even if there aren’t issues, it’s a good idea to take your baby to a pediatric dentist by age one. You can discuss oral issues such as teething, thumb sucking and proper tooth care. Plus, it gives your child a positive first experience at the dentist's office.

Other precautions

Sweet foods (such as fruit juice, peanut butter and jelly) and starches (including breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels) can contribute to cavities. To prevent tooth decay, you should be careful how often you serve these foods. They are best had at mealtimes, not as snacks. For snacks, savoury choices such as cheese and vegetables are a better option.

  • Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice or sweetened liquid. These liquids feed bacteria in the mouth that cause tooth decay.

As a parent, your children will learn good oral hygiene habits if you show them what to do from the start.  While toothless smiles look cute on babies but sad on adults, starting your child on the path to good oral hygiene right from the beginning is the best way to ensure a lifetime of pearly-white smiles!

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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