Q&A: Do I brush baby’s first teeth?

Posted in Baby Teeth and tagged .

First toothy pegs are adorable to look at, but trying to get those teeny pearly whites clean can mean a mini wrestling match at the sink. Is there an easy way to clean baby’s first teeth?

How is everyone brushing their baby’s teeth?? This has become so difficult and she usually screams or just flat out refuses to open her little mouth. I’ve tried a few different types of baby toothbrushes and try to make it fun but as soon as she sees she won’t open her mouth!

Claire, Mum's Grapevine Group Member

Dentist Dr Guilia D’Anna tells Mum’s Grapevine that it’s super important to keep baby teeth clean and healthy, even though they only hang around for a few years.

“The best thing to remember is that a baby should never go to sleep sucking on a bottle of anything other than water. Milk includes natural sugar, called lactose. This has the ability to cause ‘bottle caries’ or ‘bottle decay’ which is literally decay that occurs due to bottle feeding.

“Parents don’t need to be too worried about feeding, there just needs to be a break between milk sessions (as there naturally is). The problem occurs when parents put the baby to bed with a bottle so that the baby can suck on the bottle constantly for potentially hours at a time. Another no-no is letting your baby drink fruit juices between milk sessions, for the same reason where the decay rate is likely to go up.

How to clean baby’s first teeth

Mother brushing baby's teeth

Gentle wiping: In the early stages, to clean teeth, wiping the gums and teeth with a face washer is all that is needed. The aim is to gently wipe off any plaque that occurs. There is definitely no need to use toothpaste this early.

First toothbrush: As your baby grows up, using a toothbrush is more important. The child becomes accustomed to the process. Again there is no need for toothpaste, as diet is more important here.

Brushing position: I found with my children that lying the child down with their head in my lap always worked best for me. It helps too if the child is distracted by a toy or watching tv just for a minute so that I can brush teeth without having them pull it out of their mouth.

Toothpaste: When using toothpaste, only use a very small smear on the toothbrush until you know that your child can reliably spit out. Too much toothpaste at an early age can cause permanent effects on the developing adult teeth, called fluorosis. Fluoride is great for teeth, but it is meant to be superficially applied only, not ingested. So until you know your child can spit out the excess and is not swallowing it, use low-fluoride toothpaste in small amounts.

When should baby see the dentist?

Mother helping child brush their teeth

“Issues with baby teeth very early is uncommon. Having said that accidents can happen and it is important to deal with them, as we do want to keep the teeth in position, and of course, we do not want our children in pain. Always seek the advice of your dentist, as there are different techniques that can be used to repair teeth.

“I remember my youngest patient was 18 months old. The poor boy hit his tooth when he fell over, causing the teeth to have an infection. He happily sat in my dental chair at this young age whilst I did dental treatment for him. We managed to save his front tooth, and he kept it in position until the normal time that the tooth is lost, which is around six to seven-years-old. I still see this patient now, and he is 19-years-old!

“If your child is not so happy to have treatment at the dentist, occasionally we need to refer these young children for care in a hospital setting. This is quite rare though these days as kids are generally happy to visit us, as we like to work with them and be very patient so that we can establish a great relationship.”

What if baby’s first teeth have gaps between them?

Baby boy brushing teeth

“I love to see gaps in baby’s first teeth. Gaps are great. I know that magazines and some images of kids show all the baby teeth perfectly lines up, but we need the gaps. This is because the developing adult teeth underneath the gums need to develop, and need space between the roots of the baby teeth to do this. Moreover, the adult teeth begin erupting between the ages of five to six-years-old, and these are much larger in size than the baby teeth. If there are no gaps, we are sure that crowding and orthodontics are likely to be on the cards. So rejoice in gaps!

Read next …

Need more help with baby’s first teeth? Head right this way:

Brushing baby teeth: How and when to do it | Mum's Grapevine


Dr Giulia D’Anna is a renowned dermal therapist and dentist, offering world-class dental and skin solutions and a makeup bar for clients at iDental

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