You do not need to begin brushing with a toothbrush or toothpaste until your infant’s teeth begin to erupt, but you should clean your baby’s gums every day with a clean damp washcloth.
Baby teeth usually start to erupt at six to nine months of age in infants. These initial teeth are very important, as they help your child eat and speak, and serve as guides to the developing adult teeth that will come after.
Before the First Tooth
Proper dental care actually begins before your child's first tooth appears. Each day, you should run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to wipe away harmful bacteria.
Try to make the cleaning of your baby's gums a part of the daily routine as early as you can. This way, by the time your baby’s first tooth comes in, you and your baby are both already accustomed to regular oral cleanings. Furthermore, because every baby teethes a bit differently, it can sometimes be difficult for a parent to tell when their baby’s first tooth is beginning to break through.
When the First Tooth Appears
As soon as the first tooth appears, you should start brushing with an infant toothbrush and fluoride-free toothpaste.
Baby teeth must be cleaned on a regular basis because, like adults, infants can get cavities too. Once your child has a tooth, plaque can begin building up on the surface of the tooth and causing decay.
Children should brush their teeth a minimum of twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed. Flossing can begin once your child has two teeth side-by-side.
Tips for Oral Care of Baby Teeth
Even babies can develop tooth decay if good habits aren't practiced. By following these oral health tips, you can help your child's baby teeth remain healthy:
- Avoid putting a baby to sleep with a bottle. It might be convenient but can harm the baby's teeth. When sugars from juice or milk sit on a baby's teeth for hours, they can eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth.
- Teach your children good dental care habits early. When you show them how to take care of their baby teeth you are starting positive habits that will last a lifetime.
- Visit a dentist who provides children's services by the age of one year, or around the time when the first teeth appear. This will help preserve the baby teeth until they are ready to fall out and be replaced by the adult teeth.