While most little ones don’t sprout their first tooth until around six months, oral hygiene is important even before we see any pearly whites, and long after. Like any healthy practice, it can be hard to develop at first, but it’s always best to start young to form the habit of oral hygiene. After years of taking care of their teeth, my kids don’t question teeth brushing or flossing – though it can still be a pain for us parents if I’m honest!
With each stage of development there are different practices for keeping your child’s mouth and teeth clean, starting with their gums in the early months. Keep their toothless grin clean by wiping the gums twice a day – ideally once in the morning, and after their last feed at night. When milk or formula rest on the gums, and eventually the teeth, over night, teeth may decay. Check out the Natural Gum & Tooth Wipes from Jack n Jill, or their Silicone Gum Brush. A baby wash cloth like the MAM Oral Care Rabbit will also do the trick. The goal is to clear away any bacteria, but it will have the added benefit of soothing any teething pain.
Sucking and Pacifying
Habitual and long-term sucking can cause problems for your child’s teeth, especially if the habit continues after baby teeth start to fall out. If your baby uses a soother or drinks from a bottle, it’s a good idea to cut both by age two. Sippy cups with straws, like the ones from Munchkin, keep liquids away from your child’s teeth, and babies can easily begin taking water from them around age one. Avoid letting your child fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth or nursing to sleep regularly – these soothing practices allow sugar from the milk to decay their teeth and cause cavities. If your baby needs something to suck on to fall asleep, try a bottle with water instead of milk, or a pacifier.
It’s the sweetest thing seeing those first couple of teeth pop through the surface. Suddenly their smile is totally different and time seems to be going by too quickly (like with all major milestones!). As soon as your baby has even one tooth, it’s time for tooth brushing. Start without toothpaste and a small, soft bristled brush, such as the Jack N’ Jill Buzzy Brush or the MAM First Brush. While parents should always brush their baby’s teeth (many dentists encourage this until primary school!), consider getting a child-friendly brush to let your little guy try it out for himself. Having a toy toothbrush is also very helpful in normalizing teeth brushing if your baby is resistant to it. We love the Angel Brush tooth brush or the Banana brush and your baby will too! Make sure toothbrushes, even the toy ones, are always kept in a safe, clean place.
Babies under age two do not need toothpaste. Simple brushing and regular cleaning will be enough for their sprouting teeth. The Canadian Dental Association reminds us that unless a child is at high risk of tooth decay (which is to be determined by a dentist), they do not need fluoride tooth paste until over age three, so make sure you’re using fluoride-free tooth paste, like Jack N’ Jill’s Natural Organic Toothpaste for your little ones. I also love the safe to swallow Happy Mouth Anti-Cavity Rinse for babies as young as nine months.
Above all, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly and model good oral hygiene for your children. In my case, my kids are now old enough to remind me to floss, and they do regularly! Starting those habits young is so crucial. Save sugary snacks and drinks for special occasions and only offer water before bed; not milk. Before long, you’ll be enduring your children wiggling their loose teeth and hiding teeth for the tooth fairy, all in the blink of an eye.
Emily is a Montreal-based writer and blogger, but most importantly, a mom of three littles (age five and under). She geeks out over cloth diapers, lattes, and will do just about anything to travel. You can find her on Instagram @emmorrice where she profusely overgrams pictures of her meals, kids and city.