When to Start Brushing Baby’s Teeth

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Are you unsure of when to start brushing baby’s teeth?

If so, this article is going to provide you with the answers and clarity you need. 

There’s nothing worse than feeling unsure of whether or not you are taking the best care you possibly can of your baby’s health, so knowing how soon you should start brushing your baby’s first teeth is important.

In this brief article we’ll cover not only when to start brushing baby teeth, but also how to brush them. Frequency is important, but brushing your child’s teeth gently and correctly are also key factors when it comes to ensuring that your baby’s teeth grow as healthy and strong as possible.

This is when you should start brushing baby teeth

The short answer to when you should start brushing your baby’s teeth is: As soon as there are any teeth to brush. 

From the moment your child’s very first tooth emerges through his or her gums, this tooth is now susceptible to tooth decay, just like adult teeth. 

A young child’s teeth can often look perfect and pearly white, but this is not because they’re immune to decay or damage; it’s simply because they’re brand new. To keep them looking that bright and healthy requires you, the parent, to stay on top of your baby’s oral health.

Unfortunately some have fallen for the myth that baby’s teeth don’t need to be brushed, or at least not right away. This is a dangerous position to hold, since baby’s teeth are just as vulnerable to decay as your own teeth are.

Needless to say, babies cannot brush their own teeth and your infant is completely dependent on you to do the brushing, and to do it right.

Step by step guide to brushing baby teeth 

Knowing how to go about brushing your baby’s teeth is just as important as knowing when to start.

If you have never brushed someone else’s teeth before, brushing your baby’ teeth can seem like a daunting task. You may feel the weight of the responsibility for your child’s dental health weighing heavily on your shoulders, but the good news is that baby’s never grow a full set of teeth overnight, but rather one small baby tooth at a time. This gives you time to slowly ease into brushing your baby’s teeth, starting with just the first tooth and slowly adding more tooth to the twice daily routine of brushing your baby’s teeth, as and when new teeth erupt.

What’s more, if you follow these simple steps, you’ll soon be a pro at brushing your baby’s teeth.

Always use a soft bristled infant toothbrush

Using the correct brush is important when the aim is to keep your baby’s first tooth decay free. Always use a small, soft bristled toothbrush rather than a regular adult toothbrush, which is going to be uncomfortably big for your baby’s mouth.

When your baby’s teeth first start erupting, it is a good idea to consult a pediatric dentist who can advice you on the best toothbrush and toothbrushing methods to use. In most cases, using a special infant toothbrush is the best idea. A baby toothbrush is a finger brush, which is made of soft rubber which can be worn on a clean finger. Wearing the toothbrush on your finger allows you to easily navigate and reach any of your baby’s teeth, including the back molars.

The reason why a soft bristled toothbrush beats one with harder bristles is that hard bristles can wear on the teeth’s enamel, which in turn can make the teeth more vulnerable to decay and bacterial infection.

Brush gently and show patience 

The best way to begin cleaning your baby’s teeth is to move the infant toothbrush in a circular motion. Gently brush each tooth from every angle, until the tooth is completely clean. 

Don’t worry if you don’t manage to get much brushing done on your first attempt. Your baby may writhe in your arms or start getting cranky. This is completely normal, as your baby has never tasted toothpaste before and may not like the taste. The first time you brush your child’s teeth, the most important thing is getting your little one used to getting his or her teeth brushed as part of their daily routine. You can be sure that, as soon as the habit has been established, your baby won’t resist toothbrushing as much as the first time. 

Only use a small amount of toothpaste

Babies can easily swallow toothpaste, which isn’t good for them. To avoid swallowing too much toothpaste, use only a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste. A pea sized amount is sufficient, particularly when your baby doesn’t have many teeth yet.

Your baby may drool a lot during toothbrushing. If this happens, just gently wipe around the baby’s mouth with a damp washcloth.

Do not neglect your baby’s gums

There is more to looking after your baby’s dental health than simply brushing your baby’s teeth. Your baby’s gum are also part of the important ecosystem of your baby’s overall oral health.

Keeping your baby’s gums clean and healthy is relatively simple. You can brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush at the same time as brushing your infant’s teeth. Just make sure you are not applying too much pressure, as this can cause pain and irritation.

If your baby is experiencing any teething pain, gently massaging the baby’s gums can help alleviate the discomfort. To massage your baby’s gums, place a clean finger on the gums and apply gentle pressure while moving your finger in a circular motion. Gum massage can also encourage tooth eruption, which is great if your baby’s teeth are taking too long to push their way up through the gums.

It is important only to apply the gentlest of pressures when massaging your baby’s gums – too much pressure can be painful. 

Reduce sugar

Babies shouldn’t be consuming much sugar in the first place, but it is still worth mentioning here that sugary drinks and snacks are among the worst diet choices for young children, both in terms of their overall health and in terms of their teeth.

Sugar produces plaque, which is what breaks down the tooth enamel and leads to tooth decay. To keep your child’s teeth healthy, strong and pearly white, only let your little one ingest sugary foods and drinks in very limited quantities.

Teach your child good oral hygiene habits from an early age

Healthy habits around oral hygiene should be installed early on.

Infants are, of course, too young to be taught anything about oral hygiene, but as soon as your child is a toddler and begins to understand, you can start teaching him or her how to brush, spit and rinse. 

Even when your little one seems to have gotten a hang of it and is doing a great job at taking care of his or her own oral hygiene, you should still oversee toothbrushing every day to make sure your child doesn’t skip.

Frequently asked questions

How should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?

You should start brushing your baby’s teeth as early as possible, which is to say as soon as your baby has any teeth in his or her mouth. 

Babies’ teeth are no more impervious to damage and decay that adult teeth, so you shouldn’t wait to start brushing until your child has a mouth full of teeth. 

Always brush your baby’s teeth very gently, using a small brush with soft bristles. You also want to make sure you are not applying too much pressure or force, as this could be highly uncomfortable for your little one. Use small circular motions to brush both teeth and gums.

Do babies need toothpaste?

Yes, you should be using toothbrush when brushing your baby’s teeth. 

Using fluoride toothpaste is vital if you want to maintain healthy teeth – this is true for baby teeth as much as for adult teeth.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.