Dental Care For Babies & Toddlers (& What To Do When They Hate It)
Starting proper dental care sooner than later teaches your children the importance of twice-daily brushing to prevent decay and cavities. Below, we’re breaking down all you need to know about baby and toddler oral care, and what to do if your little one starts protesting the toothbrush.
Do I need to brush my baby’s gums?
The short answer to this is, “yes.” Before your baby’s first tooth even breaks, bacteria caused by the sugars in breastmilk and formula can build up in their mouth. It’s suggested from 3 months old to use a clean, damp washcloth to wipe over your baby’s gums twice a day. Not only does this help keep your baby’s mouth clean, but it also prepares them for brushing when they start to get their teeth!
When do I start brushing my baby’s teeth?
Once your baby’s first tooth breaks through, you can choose to keep using a damp washcloth or graduate to either an infant toothbrush or a soft-bristled toothbrush made specifically for babies. Using just water, you’ll want to make sure to gently wipe or brush the front and back of the tooth or teeth.
Once your baby is 18 months, you can start adding a rice grain-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste to a soft-bristled toothbrush and work your way up in toothpaste amount based on advice from your medical professional.
How do I brush my baby’s teeth?
- Lay your baby securely on the floor, bed, or changing table making sure their head is supported.
- Gently lift your baby’s lips and using circular motions, brush the front surfaces as well as the hard-to-see back surfaces and grooves.
- If your baby is squirmy, it might help to enlist your partner, friend, or family member to hold and distract your baby while you brush.
- In the morning and before bed, get in front of a mirror with your toddler, so they can see the tooth brushing process.
- If they’re interested, let your toddler try to brush their teeth first. When they’re done, go in and make sure to brush all surfaces of their teeth using circular motions.
- Now that your toddler is using more toothpaste than the rice grain-size that babies use, you’ll want to instruct them on how to spit the remaining toothpaste.
And what if they hate it?
If you’ve ever found yourself chasing a toothbrush dodger around the house or pleading with your child to brush their teeth, you’re definitely not alone. But even if they protest it every morning and night, you shouldn’t allow brushing their teeth to fall to the wayside – you just have to get a bit more strategic!
- Incorporate singing two-minute songs into the routine
- Let them pick out their toothbrush and toothpaste, so they’re excited to use it
- Brush your teeth at the same time, so they can imitate you and see it as a ‘big kid’ job
- Let them practice brushing their favourite toy’s teeth (with a new toothbrush and no toothpaste)
- Reward the behaviour with stickers each morning and night that they add to a daily brushing chart
- Download tooth brushing apps that have fun songs, instructional videos for kids, and timers
Even when it gets a bit tricky, it’s worth winning the toothbrush battle every time, as it helps your child form good oral hygiene habits that will last with them for a lifetime.