Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one’s mouth and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush.
At this stage, try using a training toothpaste. If your little one doesn’t react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don’t give up. Try switching back to a damp washcloth for a few months and try the toothbrush again. During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.
When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child’s brush. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste. The AAPD recomends a smear of toothpaste for children under the age of 3 years and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children over 3 years. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing.
Don’t give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay.
It’s recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption — usually around his or her first birthday. We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one's teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!