When it comes to prioritizing your baby’s dental health, it’s important to start sooner rather than later. In fact, good oral health begins even before a child’s teeth appear. Below, we address two questions commonly asked by our patients with little ones wondering how best to promote healthy teeth and gums.
When should I start brushing my child’s teeth, and how much toothpaste should I use?
Oral health should be prioritized even prior to the emergence of any teeth. As soon as a baby is born, parents should start to use a soft, damp, clean washcloth to gently wipe their baby’s gums after a feeding or prior to them sleeping in order to prevent the spread of bacteria.
At roughly six months of age, a baby’s teeth will begin to show through their gums, starting with the lower central incisors (front teeth) followed by the upper central incisors. (Don’t be concerned if your baby’s first tooth doesn’t appear until 12-14 months, as this is perfectly normal.) As soon as they appear, teeth are subject to decay – and light brushing becomes a necessity.
For children under the age of 3, the recommended amount of toothpaste to use is quite small: roughly the size of a grain of rice. For children aged 3 to 6, a dot of toothpaste the size of a pea should be used. Another way to keep your child’s teeth healthy? Avoid feeding your child foods that are rich in sugar and starch and putting your baby to bed with a bottle, as prolonged exposure to milk or juice can cause what’s known as “baby bottle tooth decay.”
We recommend parents assist in brushing their child’s teeth until their child reaches the age of 5. At minimum, brushing should be supervised, and a parent or caregiver should do a quick brush of the child’s teeth after the child is finished brushing. When your child is brushing their own teeth, remember to remind them to avoid swallowing toothpaste. It’s important to choose a fluoride toothpaste with an ADA (American Dental Association) seal of approval — find a list of these and other ADA kid-approved products here. A final tip: no matter what your child’s age, dentists recommend brushing your child’s teeth or supervising self-brush two times per day — once in the morning and once in the evening
When should my child first visit the dentist?
When a child’s first teeth appear, this also means a trip to the dentist is in order. We recommend your child’s first visit to the dentist take place within 6 months of their first tooth, but no later than the child’s first birthday. Here are some great tips to prepare your child for their first visit to Madison Family Dental.
Once your child is at their first dentist appointment, you can expect us to evaluate both the child’s jaw as well as their teeth to make sure both are developing properly. We will examine the teeth for cavities or other issues, and, if your child is above the age of 3, we’ll finish the appointment with a full cleaning. During the appointment, the dentist will give you tips on daily care to keep your child’s teeth healthy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the appointment or hesitate to call our Madison or DeForest offices with questions prior to scheduling your child’s first dentist appointment.