Your little one’s first set of teeth play a very important role and it’s never too early to start taking care of them. Aside from needing them to eat, they also aid speech, language development and help to guide their permanent teeth into place.
Brushing baby teeth
It’s a good idea to start cleaning your baby’s teeth twice daily as soon as they start to appear: make it part of their morning and evening routine and it will soon become a habitual process.
Use a little piece of clean, soft cloth wrapped around one of your fingers and a tiny smear of suitable toothpaste at first, progressing to a baby-sized toothbrush as more teeth appear.
Don’t be tempted to brush more frequently as too much brushing, especially not straight after eating, as it can damage the enamel.
Beating tooth decay
Sugary food and drink is the main cause of tooth decay in children. To help avoid it from the start, bear in mind the following advice:
- Never put anything sweet on your baby’s dummy, or in their bottle – stick to milk, and in between feeds, just plain water
- Aim to introduce a cup as soon as possible, from six months – fluid hangs around the mouth for longer when sucked through a teat, raising the risk of decay
- Don’t leave your baby with a bottle of anything other than water at night – even milk contains quite a lot of naturally-occurring sugar and if left to ‘bathe’ her teeth for prolonged periods, could cause damage
- Once your baby’s on solid food, avoid giving them sugary foods – they won’t get a taste for sweet stuff until you introduce it
- If you do give a sugary treat occasionally, try to give it with a meal and encourage them to have a drink of water afterwards, to help wash some of the sugar off their teeth
- Experts advise against giving squash or juice at all during your baby’s first year, but if you do offer it to your baby, only give it at mealtimes, very diluted, and in a cup rather than a bottle
When to go to the dentist
Many people only go to the dentist when they have a problem, but your dentist will be happy to check out your baby’s teeth as soon as they’ve got some – and can also give advice and prescribe treatment for teething pain.
Get into the habit of taking your child for regular check-ups (perhaps when you have yours), so they know that it’s nothing to be afraid of.
Your dentist will advise you how often you should attend appointments, but it’s usually every six months.