Tips for looking after your baby’s and toddler’s teeth

Caring for Gums

Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, her 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 of any fragments of food and begins the process of building a good habit of daily oral care.

Baby’s First Tooth

When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case the bristles are soft and few.

At this stage, toothpaste isn’t necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn’t react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don’t give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months, then 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.

Brushing with Toothpaste

When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child’s brush. However, for the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, unless advised to do so by your dentist, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing to prepare her for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.

Avoiding Cavities

Don’t give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavoured drinks or soft drinks. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with her teeth guarantee early childhood decay — also called ‘baby-bottle caries’.