Tips for Parents: Oral Hygiene for Your Baby

Did you know that you can (and should) start an oral hygiene routine with your baby right away? Maintaining good oral hygiene can prevent harmful bacteria buildup and maintain a healthy mouth for your baby’s primary teeth. Once the primary teeth come in, continuing oral hygiene can prevent tooth decay and unhealthy gums. Your baby should have an easier time eating and forming sounds and words with healthy primary teeth. Oral hygiene for your baby only takes a few minutes each day and can be added to your daily bathing or feeding routines. 

Healthy mouth and gums matter at birth
Your baby is born with 20 primary teeth underneath the gums, but you probably won’t notice any teeth coming in until your child is around six to twelve months old. (If you need some teething tips, we also have you covered). Also, if you have trouble soothing your baby at night, you may be tempted to put him or her to sleep with a bottle, but pediatric dentists warn that this can cause “baby bottle tooth decay.” WebMD says, “Baby bottle tooth decay is when sweetened liquids or those with natural sugars (like milk, formula and fruit juice) cling to an infant’s teeth for a long time. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth.” Here are some quick tips for keeping your baby’s mouth clean:

  •  Stick to plain water, formula, milk or breast milk in bottles.
  • Never put your baby to bed with a bottle.
  • Use clean pacifiers don’t dip them in sugar or honey.
  • Avoid sharing saliva with your baby by using the same spoon or licking a pacifier to clean it because you can transfer dental decay to your baby.
  • Wipe your baby’s gums and teeth clean with a gauze pad or soft cloth after eating or a minimum of once in the morning and once before bed.

Your baby’s first tooth usually appears between ages 6-8 months
You just spotted the first baby tooth coming in ­— yay! Now you may be wondering when to start using a toothbrush and toothpaste for your baby’s primary teeth and gums. Here are some quick tips for keeping your baby’s primary teeth clean.  

  • Brush the tooth with a baby toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • If your baby has primary teeth that are touching, you can also start flossing to clean out the bacteria and buildup. You may find it helpful to use child-friendly plastic flossing tools when flossing.
  • Make sure your baby’s diet is low in sugar and other added sweeteners to reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Healthy primary teeth are important for healthy eating, speech development, sleep habits and preventing tooth decay. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that your baby’s first dental visit should be between six months to a year after the first tooth appears, but no later than a child’s first birthday.

Established a healthy oral hygiene routine with your baby from the start, can help ensure that your child will have a healthy mouth, gums and teeth that will help prevent tooth decay and other dental diseases. Starting an oral hygiene routine right away shows your child how important it is to properly take care of his or her own mouth and teeth which comes in handy as their permanent “adult” teeth come in.   

Interested in more information about establishing an oral hygiene routine for your baby or when to take your child to their first dental appointment? Please consult your child’s pediatrician or pediatric dentist directly with any questions or concerns you have about the dental health of your child. You can also check out related blog posts on when to take your child to the dentist and teething. 

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