There’s nothing like the toothless grin of a happy baby. And while teething can be a difficult time for parents and baby, watching those little teeth appear is a momentous time in your child’s development. Now it’s time to make sure you’re caring for your baby’s teeth and gums properly.

If your baby is toothless…

Soak in that adorable gummy smile! Before your baby’s first tooth arrives, be sure to care properly for his or her gums. Breastmilk and formula both contain sugars that can sit on your child’s gums and create problems. After feeding, gently cleanse your baby’s gums with a clean, damp cloth. It may be helpful to wrap one finger in the cloth and trace along the gums. This will help clear away sugary residue while also getting your baby used to daily oral hygiene!

After the first tooth…

Congratulations on that little tooth appearing! Once it’s cut, you can “upgrade” to a baby toothbrush (available in most drugstores) with soft, sparse bristles. Without using toothpaste, simply wet the brush and gently brush along teeth and gums. If your baby doesn’t like it, you can always use the washcloth method explained above. But don’t stop trying; we find most babies grow to love their toothbrush!

Using toothpaste

When your baby starts to look more like a jack-o-lantern, with several small teeth, you can start using toothpaste to brush. Just make sure you get a fluoride free toothpaste, as babies naturally swallow the saliva generated by brushing. That said, you can start helping your baby practice spitting by demonstrating it for him or her. Sooner or later, your baby will do it too!

Keeping it clean

Avoiding cavities and tooth decay is a lifelong commitment – and it starts in the tiniest of mouths. To keep your baby’s developing mouth and teeth healthy, avoid sugary liquids like juice or sugar water. Formula, milk and breastmilk all contain sugars, so it’s important to clean your baby’s teeth or gums after eating to remove the sugary residue. Additionally, never send your baby to bed with a bottle. This allows sugars to sit on the teeth and gums overnight, strongly increasing your baby’s risk of decay and cavities.

As you may know, cavities are formed when bacteria in your baby’s mouth consume sugars in his or her food. Believe it or not, you could introduce these bacteria into your child’s mouth by sharing utensils or food. So along with avoiding sugary drinks and limited sugary foods, be careful not to share utensils with your baby.

Baby’s First Dental Visit

Taking your baby to the dentist for the first time is an important step in creating a lifetime of healthy dental habits. Your baby should see the dentist within six months of receiving his or her first tooth, or by the age of one, whichever comes first. Early evaluations allow your dentist to monitor your baby’s development as well as note any potential issues. Additionally, it’s a great way for your baby to become familiarized with our office and staff. Always approach dental hygiene and dental appointments positively, so your baby understands there’s nothing to fear.

Follow the Leader

Babies learn by example, so demonstrate healthy dental hygiene practices at home! Let your baby see you brush and floss, talking to him or her about why it’s important. As soon as he or she is interested, allow your baby or toddler to brush like you do. While you’ll want to ensure your child has brushed thoroughly, it’s great to give him or her a bit of practice before you take over.