You don't need to start brushing your child's teeth with a toothbrush or toothpaste until their teeth have begun to erupt, but you should be cleaning your baby's gums on a daily basis up until then anyway.
Baby teeth usually start to erupt when children are between six and nine months of age. These teeth are very important, as they help your child eat and speak, and eventually guide the adult teeth into the proper spaces.
Before the First Tooth
Proper dental care actually begins before your child's first tooth appears. Each day, you should run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to wipe away harmful bacteria.
Making sure that the cleaning of your infant's gums is part of your daily routine from the start will help to make sure that, by the time the first tooth comes in, you and your baby will both be used to mouth cleanings. On top of this, since every baby goes through the teething process a bit differently, it can actually be a bit difficult for parents to tell when their child's first tooth is beginning to break through.
When the First Tooth Appears
As soon as the first tooth appears, you should start brushing with an infant toothbrush and fluoride-free toothpaste.
Baby teeth will need to be cleaned on a regular basis because infants, just like adults, can develop cavities. After your child has their first tooth, plaque may begin building up on the tooth's surface and causing decay.
Children should brush at least twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed. Flossing can begin once your child has two teeth side-by-side.
Tips for Oral Care of Baby Teeth
Even babies are able to develop tooth decay if good habits aren't practiced. By following these oral health tips, you can help your child's baby teeth to keep healthy:
- If you can help it, avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle. This may be convenient, but the sugars from juice or milk will sit on your baby's teeth for hours and eat away at the enamel. When a baby develops tooth decay from this, it's referred to as bottle mouth.
- Teach your children good dental care habits early. When you show them how to take care of their baby teeth you are starting positive habits that will last a lifetime.
- Visit a dentist who provides children's services by the age of one year, or around the time when the first teeth appear. This will help preserve the baby teeth until they are ready to fall out and be replaced by the adult teeth.