Baby's dental health – how to clean new teeth and when to schedule the first dentist visit
It’s never too early to start caring for your dental health so as soon as your baby’s teeth start coming through, it is important to look after them.
Buy a soft-bristled toothbrush designed to be used by babies and add a small smear of fluoride toothpaste. Don’t use your usual adult toothpaste as these will often contain ingredients which aren’t suitable for infants like whitening agents and the flavour can be overpowering for young children.
There are plenty of toothpastes available on the market for babies and toddlers but don’t worry about spending a lot of money on expensive brands. A simple toothpaste containing at least 1,000ppm of fluoride will be fine for children under the age of three.
Don’t worry about brushing for the full two minutes when their teeth are just starting to come through. Just make sure you are brushing the teeth which are visible twice a day.
Why do I need to worry about their teeth when they will fall out anyway?
Some parents wonder why caring for baby teeth is important when they will eventually be replaced by adult teeth. If teeth decay and end up falling out before they are ready, this can affect the development of their grown up teeth so it is important to treat every tooth as precious.
Tooth decay can also be uncomfortable and painful for your little one. Starting teeth brushing when they are tiny will also make it easier for you to get them looking after their teeth when they are older as it will already be an established part of their daily routine.
How do I brush my baby’s teeth?
Let your little one see you brushing your own teeth as this will help make the concept seem more familiar. Sit your baby on your knee and rest their head against your chest, use the toothbrush to bush each tooth using small, circular movements.
You don’t need to rinse your little one’s teeth with water as that will undo the benefits of using a fluoride toothpaste. Instead, just encourage them to spit out any excess toothpaste they may have in their mouth.
When should I take my baby to the dentist for the first time?
As soon as your baby is born, speak to your dentist to see if they can be registered with the practice. Your dentist may have their own policy about when they recommend you book your baby’s first appointment but as a general rule, it is a good idea to take them once their first few milk teeth have appeared.
Your child is entitled to free dental treatment on the NHS. However, some dentists will not take on any additional NHS patients and if you go to a private dentist yourself, you may need to find somewhere else to register your baby.
To find a dentist in your area who is accepting new NHS patients, you can call 0300 311 223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to look after your baby’s dental health
Never give your baby or toddler any sweet drinks like juice or squash in a bottle as the teat will mean the sugar from the drink stays in contact with their teeth for a long time. Only ever use bottles for milk or water and if you want to give your child juice, use a free-flowing cup without a valve.
Avoid giving your little one sugary foods like sweets or biscuits. If you want to give your child some sweet foods, try to stick to mealtimes and offer it as a dessert. This will limit how long their teeth are exposed to the harmful acids in sugary food and drink.
If your baby uses a dummy, try to take it away by the time they reach the age of one. Prolonged dummy use can interfere with the natural development of teeth and cause them to grow in crooked or with a gap. Don’t ever dip your baby’s dummy in anything sweet before giving it to them.