Tooth decay and gum disease are things in life you certainly want to avoid as an adult. You know that brushing your teeth is essential for maintaining healthy smiles and avoiding the dentist’s chair. So why should your baby be any different?
Babies have a lot of growing and development to do before they reach maturity. They have to learn how to speak, walk and not choke on their food. But without good oral health, your baby will likely have to suffer the effects of tooth decay before their complete set of milk teeth have even appeared.
Want to give your baby their best start? Here’s why brushing your baby’s teeth matters:
Why baby tooth care is important
Gummy smiles may be the staple of your day while your babe is still a newborn, but their baby teeth started developing while they were still in the womb. That’s why cleaning their gums daily is so important.
Regularly cleaning your baby’s gums will reduce the levels of decay-causing bacteria and remove any leftover food and milk deposits. What’s more, all you need is to gently wipe a damp clean cloth or baby dental wipe over their gums at least twice a day. Not only will this keep their mouth and gums nice and clean, but it will slowly introduce your baby to a daily dental routine.
Good dental hygiene promotes speech development
Did you know that your baby’s teeth play a crucial part in their speech? They also play a vital role in how your child learns how to articulate sounds and words properly. You see, establishing good oral hygiene early on in your baby’s life will encourage good oral development as they grow.
Your child’s lips, tongue and teeth all work together to form words by controlling the airflow in and out of their mouth. Furthermore, the tongue aids sounds to be made by striking teeth and the roof of the mouth. If your child experiences any oral health or structural development due to the condition of their teeth, their speech may ultimately be affected.
What does tooth decay look like for a baby?
If your child experiences tooth decay at a young age, it can lead to problems beyond their speech development. Abscesses can begin to form and harm the permanent adult teeth developing within their gums. When this becomes serious, your child may have to undergo painful tooth extraction, which can be incredibly damaging for you and your child’s wellbeing.
Should a baby have to experience tooth extraction, they are more likely to develop orthodontic problems in the future.
Establish good oral hygiene habits
Any good dentist will tell you that brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day will help reduce your chances of tooth decay and further oral health problems. Your baby is no different. That’s why it is crucial to establish good oral hygiene habits as part of their daily routine as early as possible.
Creating a simple routine doesn’t have to be complicated. As long as you include the basics, you are well on your way to giving your child all the tools they need for a healthy life.
Starting off, you may wish to hold your child on your lap as you brush their teeth. That way, they will feel comforted by your proximity and more willing to let you brush. Other good techniques include:
- Brushing at bathtime: if your child can already sit unaided, handing them their toothbrush will help them to get used to how it feels. You may want to have a look at a Brush-Baby toothbrush. They are specially designed with your little one in mind – you will find bright colours, soft bristles, baby electric toothbrushes and more within their range
- Learning through imitation: brushing your teeth in front of your child will help them to see how it’s done properly
- Sing their favourite song: bonus points if it hits the recommended two minute brushing time mark!
- Tell a story: whether you make up your own or invest in the wealth of children’s dental books out there, such as Hey Duggee and the Tooth Brushing Badge, there’s are a lot of materials to help you along the way
How much toothpaste should I use?
Strong minty flavours and high doses of fluoride are not recommended for children. That’s why baby toothpaste tends to be made from gentle flavours such as strawberry or apple and is only available in low-fluoride or fluoride-free varieties.
For babies and toddlers up to 3 years old, it is recommended that you only use a smear or rice grain-sized amount of age-appropriate toothpaste. From there, you can start to introduce a pea-sized amount between the ages of 3 and 6 years old.
As your child’s teeth begin to develop, gradually build up their toothbrushing routine until you are brushing their teeth at least twice a day for the recommended two minutes. It’s best to brush at least once in the morning after they have eaten their breakfast and just before they go to bed.
Beyond toothpaste amounts, you should never leave your child unattended while they brush their teeth. You need to make sure that each tooth has been brushed and not use excessive toothpaste.
Head to the dentist
Dentists aren’t just for adults. The moment your baby’s first tooth appears, it’s time to book their first dental appointment. Not only will you get the best tips and advice from the professionals, but there are a whole host of other benefits too, such as:
- Familiarity: the more familiar your child is with their dentist, the more confident they will feel
- Spotting potential problems early on: your dentist will be able to spot any red flags before they manifest into something worse later on, such as plaque build-up or decay
- Helpful diet advice: dentists will offer you a range of information regarding healthy eating and foods to avoid
- Valuable resources: from fun dentist books to information on how to take care of your child’s teeth, your dentist will be happy to help
Whether you’re just starting a new routine with your baby or are well into your oral hygiene journey with your little one, brushing their teeth is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. Parents and caregivers, you’ve got this!