Healthy Mouth For Your Baby & Toddler
As a mom of a 20 month old, and being a hygienist I frequently get asked lots of questions about when parents should start brushing their baby’s teeth. Baby teeth play a very important role in your child’s development; they help your child chew and speak, and they help hold the space for the permanent teeth as they are developing below the gums. These primary teeth are also important in promoting a healthy smile that helps children feel good about themselves. Babies are born with 20 partially formed baby teeth that start erupting around 6 months and continue until about 24-33 months. Since having my son and comparing his eruption pattern to my friends’ children, I have learned that every baby is different in the eruption time and order, but most children will have all 20 baby teeth by age three.
Many parents also ask why instilling good oral habits in babies is important and why they need to worry about tooth decay in babies. It’s important because the decay in primary teeth can mean a higher risk of decay in permanent teeth. Children are at a higher risk of decay because their teeth are exposed to sugars often or for longer periods of time due to breast feeding or bottle feeding and the frequency. It is important to wipe babies’ gums with a damp cloth daily to remove these sugars from the gums. It is also important not to put your baby or toddler to bed with a bottle, as the liquid can pool around the teeth. These liquids include any form of milk, fruit juice, soda and other sweet drinks. For the same reason it is also important not to allow your child to sip on these same liquids or graze on sugary or sticky food throughout the day. Each time you eat or drink, the bacteria in the mouth turns the sugar to acids which stay on your teeth and break down the enamel, causing tooth decay.
If you instill good habits in your child it will become a lifelong habit that will help protect their oral cavity and overall health. Start by following these few simple steps:
- Once baby has teeth – brush teeth 2 times a day with water and/or training toothpaste on a baby toothbrush. If baby shows interest let them practice too, even if they are chewing on it. Change the toothbrush if your baby is sick or you are not sure where the toothbrush has been. Baby’s teeth should be all one color. If you see spots or stains let us know. Children cannot keep teeth clean themselves until they are about 7 or 8 years old, so you will need to help them brush.
- Protect your baby’s teeth with fluoride– Flouride protects teeth from tooth decay and can even heal early decay. *If you have fluoride in your tap water and you give that to your baby that is great. If you only use bottled water or you have well water then you may want to occasionally brush with a very small pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste or get a fluoride drop prescription from us.
- Flossing : Even though kids may have spacing, it’s important to practice flossing so it becomes a better habit, especially for when their adult teeth start to erupt and things get crowded.
Additional homecare information for children over the age of 4:
- Brushing (Manual or Electric brush): Kids Sonicare toothbrushes are available for children 4 & older (some younger kids can use them but it depends on the child. For kids under 4 – letting them pick out their own spin brush at the store (ie: frozen theme, paw patrol) may get them to have more fun with brushing.
- Toothpaste: Fluoride toothpaste – Kids who have all their baby teeth and dental provider gives permission to use 2-3x week when an ADULT is brushing. Once a child can spit out the toothpaste you can use it every time they brush.
- Act Fl2 rinse: Once your child can safely swish & spit with water, we encourage using fluoride rinse at night before bed to help protect and re-mineralize enamel from all the sugars & acidic value of things we eat and drink daily.