Brushing Baby's Teeth
Getting your baby to allow you to brush their teeth effectively can be tricky. Some babies are happy to allow you to brush their teeth, (or tooth!) but as babies get older and more strong-minded, they can become fussy about having their teeth cleaned.
Despite protests from your little one, it's important you do clean their teeth twice a day as soon as you see that first little tooth poking through, to prevent tooth decay. Getting your baby into good habits early will stand them in excellent stead for having good oral hygiene as they progress through childhood and into adulthood. Most babies get their first pearly white when they are between 4-6 months old, but some babies celebrate their first birthday with not so much as a tip of a tooth in sight. It's also not unheard of for babies to be born with a tooth! Your baby will get 20 milk teeth in total, usually by the time they are two and a half.
What Toothbrushes and Toothpaste Should I Use?
You can use either a small toothbrush designed for milk teeth, or a clean piece of cloth or gauze wrapped around your finger, moistened with water. If you choose to use a toothbrush, buy one that is designed for your baby's age range. Baby toothbrushes are usually very soft, with 2 or 3 rows of bristles of varying lengths, to remove more plaque. Remember to change your baby's toothbrush every 3 months, or sooner if the bristles start to bend outwards (often caused by little gums chewing away on the toothbrush!). Use a toothpaste designed for babies, and put a smear of it on the toothbrush or gauze. Never use adult toothpaste for a baby, as the levels of fluoride these contain can be dangerous to babies. Look for a toothpaste containing no more than 1000ppm of fluoride.
Your baby will inevitably swallow the toothpaste, as they aren't old enough to know how to spit it out. If you're using a toothpaste designed for babies under 12 months, and are only using a tiny amount, this won't be a problem. Nevertheless, encourage your baby to spit, by demonstrating how you clean your own teeth, as this will help them learn to spit out toothpaste as they get older. Avoiding fruit flavoured toothpastes helps discourage babies from swallowing toothpaste.
How To Do It
Try putting your baby on your lap, with his head resting on your chest and facing away from you. This position enables you to keep hold of a wriggling baby, while giving you a good view of his mouth. Gently brush each tooth, and wipe your baby's tongue gently as well, as bacteria also collects here. If your baby doesn't like having his teeth brushed, let him hold the toothbrush after you've cleaned his teeth, for him to 'practice' cleaning his teeth by himself. This will make him feel more in control, and might be a compromise he feels happy with! It's best to clean your baby's teeth before giving him the toothbrush, as he's unlikely to give it back to you if you do it the other way round!
To encourage reluctant babies to clean their teeth, let them watch you brushing your own teeth, and make it seem like the highlight of your morning/evening routine! Sing a song to them while you clean their teeth (this can be a made-up song about toothbrushes to the tune of their favourite nursery rhyme!) Get books from the library about toothbrushes; any kind of interest you can garner in your little one about toothbrushes will help get them into teeth cleaning! The most effective time to clean your baby's teeth is in the morning, and before bed, after they've had their last drink or milk feed.