Good oral care for your baby begins before the first tooth appears, which includes cleaning your baby’s gums naturally using some biodegradable gauze that’s wrapped around your finger.
Science suggests that teeth start to develop in the second trimester of pregnancy. So, even if you can’t see the first tooth until your baby is around six months old, it is important that you start caring for those 20 primary teeth in the jaw as early as possible.
Tips to clean baby teeth naturally
Here are a few tips to help you keep your baby’s teeth clean and healthy naturally.
When to start cleaning baby gums
You should start cleaning your baby’s gums as soon as you’re able to put your finger inside his/her mouth. Some parents like to wait till around three months, but you can start sooner especially if you’re using a pacifier. Since the teeth haven’t emerged at this point, you’ll need to wrap a biodegradable gauze around your finger that you then use to wipe off excess food while cleaning the gums.
Keep in mind that babies are born without any harmful bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria is usually transferred by the mother when kissing the baby or blowing on food to cool it before feeding the baby. Harmful bacteria can also be transferred from mother to baby when cleaning a pacifier with your own mouth. This is why you might want to clean your newborn’s gums before the age of three months.
Infant oral care before teeth
- Before your baby’s teeth emerge, run a clean, wet biodegradable gauze over the gums to clean the gums and wipe off any harmful bacteria in the mouth from around the age of three months
- As soon as you baby starts teething, start cleaning his/her teeth twice a day. Once before bed, and at another time that is convenient to you. Starting early helps them get used to cleaning.
- During the first weeks, you may find it easier to use a piece of clean muslin or gauze wrapped around your finger to clean the teeth. Apply a tiny smear of natural toothpaste on the gauze and rub it around the teeth gently.
Good Dental Care for infants at Home
- After each feeding, clean the baby’s teeth and gums with a clean, damp cloth or toothbrush, using plain water.
- Use the smallest, soft-bristled toothbrush you can find.
- Do not share toothbrushes among children.
- If the baby has teeth, lift the lip and brush the gums and teeth on the front and back surfaces with a small (less than pea-sized) amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Never put the baby to bed with juice or milk. Only water should be given after brushing at bedtime.
- For teething pain, give the baby a clean teething ring, or a cold, wet washcloth to chew on.
- Use soap and/or water to clean the baby’s bottle nipple, pacifiers or teething toys. DO NOT PUT THEM IN YOUR MOUTH or you will give the baby bacteria from your mouth that can cause tooth decay.
How to brush 1 year old teeth
- When brushing your one-year old’s teeth, try sitting your baby on your knee with his/her head resting against your chest. For older children, you can stand behind them with their head tilted upwards.
- When you start using a baby toothbrush, choose one with a small head and soft nylon bristles, so you can easily and comfortably reach each newly emerging tooth and all sections of your baby’s mouth.
- Replace your baby’s toothbrush every 1-3 months. When the bristles start to spread out, you should change that toothbrush immediately.
- Brush the teeth in a circular motion, covering all surfaces especially where the teeth emerge from the gum.
When to start brushing baby teeth with toothpaste
- As long as your baby has teeth, they will be susceptible to bacteria and decay, so you should start using toothpaste as soon as the first tooth erupts. The toothpaste can be applied using your finger and some gauze or toothbrush as described below.
- Use toothpaste that is specially made for babies, and contains the right amount of fluoride. Babies under three years require low-fluoride toothpaste with a minimum of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride. After that, they can use the ordinary family toothpaste that contains 1,350 – 1,500 ppm of fluoride.
- Use just a smear of toothpaste, the size of a rice grain, and encourage your baby to spit after every cleaning. This should be sufficient for children under 3 years of age, after which they can use some more (pea-sized amount) toothpaste from the age of 3 to 6 years, when they’re better able to avoid the swallowing reflex. He/she may take a while to get used to the process, so just be patient and teach your baby gradually.
- When picking the toothpaste, you might want to choose one that does not have a fruity flavor to discourage your baby from licking or eating the toothpaste assuming that it’s food. Swallowing huge amounts of fluoride can also damage their teeth.
Oral hygiene & Safety for Kids
Besides proper cleaning, you should ensure that your baby maintains a nutritious diet. Try to switch using a bottle or feeder cup with a cup as early as possible, and feed him with dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Also reduce the intake of sugary items, or follow sweet things with cheese to encourage saliva production – more drool.
Make an appointment with the dentist within six months of seeing the baby’s first tooth or no later than age 12 months.
- Be sure to schedule the next dental exam before leaving the office.
- For babies with high risk for decay, dentists recommend using a small (less than pea-sized) amount of toothpaste with fluoride.
- The dentist or physician may prescribe fluoride supplements to reduce the risk of dental caries.
Protection from dental injuries
- Do not allow children to have anything in their mouths while running.
- Make sure children always wear a helmet when they are on riding toys, e.g., scooters, bicycles.
- Secure children with safety belts when riding in shopping carts and strollers.
Treatment for Injuries
With falls, baby teeth are usually not broken, but knocked out. If they are not knocked out, they may be loosened and need to be removed. At first, they may look fine, but with time, they may change color. Your dentist may suggest additional treatment.
- Take your child to the dentist or physician when injuries occur to the mouth or teeth.
- If facial injury results in a cut, your child may need stitches to control the bleeding.
- Use an ice pack or an ice popsicle to control any swelling.