When Should We Start Using Toothpaste on Our Children, and How Much Should We Use?
Teaching your children to care for their teeth is an important part of parenting, and the first step is caring for the teeth until they are able to take over. As the caretaker of an infant, it is your responsibility to clean his or her teeth on a daily basis.
Why Clean Infants’ Teeth
Many parents are surprised when we tell them that they should be cleaning their infants’ teeth. Perhaps it is the assumption that babies aren’t eating or drinking things that are traditionally “bad for you”. It’s important to understand that there are simple carbohydrates (or sugars) in everything infants “eat”, including breast milk. These carbs feed the bacteria that cause cavities.
Your baby receives these bacteria from your own mouth as you kiss him or test the baby food’s temperature by licking the spoon. Once babies have teeth and the bacteria capable of causing cavities, they can get cavities. This is why removing that bacteria in the form of dental plaque from your baby’s teeth is so important.
When to Start Using Toothpaste
You should begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they have teeth. This is typically around 6-8 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry actually recommends that you start using a fluoride toothpaste as soon as your baby has teeth. The reason for this recommendation is that the benefits of fluoride on your baby’s teeth far outweigh any risks of any tiny amount the baby could swallow. Fluoride is an important mineral that helps teeth fight cavities. Because teeth are susceptible to bacteria as soon as they erupt through the gums, you should be cleaning them with a fluoride toothpaste as soon as they enter the gums.
How to Clean Infants’ Teeth
When you see the first tooth protruding through the gums, you can simply use a soft washcloth to gently wipe away dental plaque. As more teeth enter the mouth, the washcloth becomes a little more awkward to use, and you should purchase a baby or infant toothbrush. There are models that just look like tiny versions of a “normal” toothbrush, and there are also small, bristled gloves that fit over your pointer finger.
As when you brush your own teeth, you want to make sure that the soft bristles touch the edge of the gums on every tooth in your baby’s tooth. To help your infant become accustomed to brushing, it might help to start a habit of gently touching the gums throughout his or her mouth with a CLEAN finger multiple times each day. Use your CLEAN finger to lightly press on the gums covering the tooth on each side: toward the cheek, toward the tongue, and right on top of the bony ridge.
How Much Toothpaste to Use
For the first three years of age, you should use the barest smear of fluoride toothpaste when you brush your child’s teeth. This amount will strengthen the enamel of the baby teeth and will not harm your child.
Between ages three to six years, you should increase that amount to the size of a pea. At this age, your child is able to spit out the majority of the toothpaste, so there is no concern over increasing the amount. Up to age six, you should continue to help your child brush his teeth as he does not have the necessary motor skills to properly remove all the dental plaque.
A good rule to follow is this: Your child can brush her own teeth without help when she can tie her shoes and write her name in cursive.
More Questions about Baby Teeth and How to Care for Them?
Call 940-382-1750 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning or ask our dental hygienists when you are in for your own visit. You can also search our past blogs for great information about babies and their teeth!
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