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Brushing Baby’s Teeth: How To Get Started

Do parents need to clean their baby’s gum before his teeth come in?

Yes. Even before the first baby’s tooth emerging, it’s a good idea to get the habit of wiping his gums with gauze or a soft washcloth after every feed or during bath time. There is no need to use any toothpaste yet. Simply wrap the cloth or gauze around the finger and rub it gently over his gums to clear harmful bacteria from baby’s mouth.

When can I expect my child’s first tooth to come in?

Generally, baby’s first tooth will most likely to be a bottom front one, appearing at about six months of age. However, the time a baby’s tooth appears can vary hugely. Some babies still have no teeth by the age of one.

When should parents start brushing their baby’s teeth?

Parents are advised to start brushing their baby’s teeth as soon as the first little tooth bud emerging in the mouth. Early start from birth will instil good oral health habits to the child.

 

 

Figure 1: Baby’s first tooth, appearing at about six months of age.

How often should parents brush their baby’s teeth?

Twice daily especially in the morning and night before bedtime.

Do parents need to buy a toothbrush for their baby?

It depends. Parents may find it easier to clean their baby’s teeth using a piece of clean gauze or wet towel. Wrap it around the finger, put a tiny smear or rice-sized of toothpaste on it, and rub it around baby’s teeth and gum.

If parents would rather use a baby toothbrush, pick one with a small head, soft nylon bristles and grip suitable for one’s finger. Use a tiny smear of toothpaste and brush gently on the inside and outside of each teeth to remove plaque and debris.

Specially designed toothbrushes such as finger toothbrush may also help parents brush their baby’s teeth.


Figure 2: Finger toothbrush

How often should you replace your baby’s toothbrush?

It should be replaced regularly, about every one month to three months. If the bristles start to spread out, it’s a sign that the toothbrush needs changing.

What kind of toothpaste is best for babies?

Parents are advised to look for a toothpaste made for babies. Check the packaging for fluoride levels to make sure the right toothpaste. Under-threes (1 to 3-year-old child) should use a lower-fluoride toothpaste, containing about 1,000ppm (parts per million) of fluoride.

Choose a toothpaste that doesn’t have a tasty, fruity flavour, so the baby learns that toothpastes aren’t food. Swallowing large amounts of fluoride could damage teeth, giving them a mottled effect, and may even make the baby sick or give him diarrhoea. 

How much toothpaste should be used?

It depends. For babies aged under 1 year old, there is no need to use any toothpaste yet.

For children aged 1 to 3 years, only a smear or thin film of toothpaste covering less than three-quarters of the brush will be fine. 

For children aged 3 years and above, brush child’s teeth with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Parents are advised to educate their child to spit after tooth brushing and should not allow to eat or lick toothpaste from the tube.


Figure 3: Comparison  of  a  smear with  a  pea-sized 
amount of toothpaste.

How should parents brush their child’s teeth?

Parents are advised to start to brush their child’s teeth with an infant toothbrush or a fingertip toothbrush. A small amount of toothpaste and water is all that is needed.

 

Figure 4: Step by step brushing technique (child aged 1 year and above)

  1. Smear a low-fluoride toothpaste on a soft bristles toothbrush or fingertip toothbrush that is designed for infants and toddlers
  2. Sit the child on your lap and facing away from you. Tilt the child’s head back against your body so you can see all the surfaces of the teeth.
  3. Angle the bristles of the toothbrush toward the gum. Move the brush in gentle circles to clean the outer sides of the teeth and gums
  4. Continue to brush in gentle circles on the inside of teeth and gums.
  5. Brush back and forth on the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  6. After chewing all surfaces of the teeth, teach the child to spit out the toothpaste

 

How to monitor baby’s feeding?  

Prolonged bottle feeding may lead to development of early childhood caries or decay. Introduce a drinking cup to wean the baby. Drinking from a cup does not cause the liquid to collect around the teeth. Fruit juice should be taken only from a cup.

Frequent consumption of sugary or sticky food combines with cavity will cause bacteria to produce acids which can lead to tooth decay. Parents are advised not to add sugar to baby’s food e.g. milk, drinks, cereals. Parents must be aware of hidden sugars.

Promote good eating habits by providing a balanced healthy menu at mealtimes.  Limit foods and drinks containing sugar to mealtimes only. Offer healthy snacks like fruit and vegetables in between meals.

How to check baby’s teeth for any early sign of decay or dental caries?

Parents are advised to get familiarise with the normal appearance of their baby’s gums and teeth so that they can identify problems if they occur. White or brown spots on the front teeth are early signs of dental caries.


Figure 5: White/ brown spots on the front teeth

Check your child’s mouth at least once a month using the “Lift the Lip” technique to look for early signs of tooth decay (white or brown spots) on the outside and inside surfaces of teeth.


Figure 6: “Lift the Lip” Technique

When should parents start taking their baby to the dentist?

Parents are advised to bring their child to the dentist by the 1 year of age. The first dental check-up before age of 12 months will help to identify early any risks to your child’s oral health.

References

  1.  Oral Health Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia. Guidelines Early Childhood Oral Healthcare 2008. MOH/K/GIG/3.2008.
  2. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Guideline on Infant Oral Health Care. Reference Manual. 2014;V37; No.6;15/16.

 

Last Reviewed : 24 October 2016
Writer : Dr. Azura bt. Abdullah
Accreditor : Dr. Salleh bin Zakaria