Looking after your children’s teeth

Happy child brushing his teeth

As your baby begins to get his or her first teeth the question many parents ask us is when they should start cleaning their child’s teeth.

The truth is you can begin before your baby gets its first tooth. Bacteria in the mouth usually can’t harm gums however, getting into the habit of wiping gums with gauze or soft wet cloth gets your baby used to having its mouth cleaned and helps you feel for early signs of teething.

Generally the first signs of teething happen around 6 months but some children don’t start getting teeth until 15 to 18 months. When they come through, look for a baby toothbrush with a small head and grip suitable for your hand and use a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste.

When teeth do come through brush them twice a day on the inside and outside as well as the tongue.

Getting the right amount of fluoride

Your baby’s developing teeth can benefit from a little fluoride. The recommended amount for children under 3 is .25 milligrams per day. This mineral helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel and making it more resistant to acids and harmful bacteria. Your baby can get fluoride from toothpaste, water and supplements.

Keep in mind that while a little fluoride is a good thing for your baby’s teeth, too much of it can lead to a condition called fluorosis, which causes white spots to show up on your child’s adult teeth. This is why it’s important to use only the tiniest amount of toothpaste until your child is old enough to rinse and spit it out.

When should I start taking my child to the dentist?

Usually within six months after the first tooth erupts, or by their first birthday, whichever comes first.

Foods to avoid.

You won’t be surprised to hear sweets including fruit, dried fruit, juice and jelly can cause decay and starches such as bread, crackers and pasta can contribute to cavities.

Serve these foods at mealtime rather than as snacks so they’re more likely to get dislodged and won’t sit on the teeth too long. Serving them with water is also helpful.

Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or sweetened liquid. These liquids feed bacteria in the mouth that cause tooth decay.