Family Friday: How to Brush Your Baby and Toddler’s Teeth
It’s never too early to start brushing your baby’s teeth. As soon as teeth break the gum line they are ready to be gently cleaned. Parents can initially clean baby’s teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad. This will be fine until more teeth begin to erupt.
As more teeth come in, you can switch to a soft bristled children’s toothbrush. There is no need to add toothpaste until the child reaches the age of 2. Some parents choose to purchase a non-fluoride toothpaste to use until the toddler reaches 2 years old.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents wait until their children reach the age of 2 before introducing fluoridated toothpaste. After the age of 2, a small amount of fluoride is beneficial and will help to protect toddler teeth into adulthood. However, too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis, a condition that causes white spots to appear on adult teeth. Toddlers often swallow their toothpaste rather than spit it out, and for this reason it is recommended that only a pea size amount of toothpaste be used.
Toddlers often resist parental attempts at tooth brushing. To calm the battle, try to get your baby engaged in the activity itself. A trip to the grocery store to let baby pick out his own character-themed toothbrush may get him excited about the task at hand. When it is time to brush, let him try doing it himself first. When he is finished you can re-brush to get them thoroughly cleaned. Many parents find it helpful to make a trip to the library and check out some books on teeth brushing or baby’s first teeth.
Allow your toddler to watch you brush your own teeth and show him the clean teeth that result. You can eat something that leaves a residue on your teeth first, such as cookies or chocolate cake. Your baby will be intrigued not only with the dirty teeth but with the clean finish after brushing as well.
Parents can schedule their baby’s first dentist around the one year milestone. Even if your toddler has not had any teeth surface, a trip to a pediatric dentist can diagnose any possible problems that may be developing under the gum line, or locate a tooth that is preparing to erupt.
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