Baby's First Tooth: Get Brushing, Moms and Dads!

I was thrilled to see my baby's first tooth. I ran out and bought a toothbrush so we could start brushing. My mother chuckled the first time she saw me brushing the baby's teeth. "I never did that with you," she said. I smiled, and kept brushing.

Not only is brushing a necessity for children who have a full set of teeth, but tooth brushing is a must for babies, too. Even before your infant gets their first tooth, brushing baby's teeth is essential in setting the stage for good dental hygiene. Here's how and why you should make time for brushing baby's teeth every day.

Baby's gums need cleaning, too.

We began brushing our oldest daughter's teeth before the first tooth had even broken the skin. We used a soft bristled brush that fit on the top of our fingers. This "toothbrush" simply brushed any milk or residue from baby's gums, keeping them clean. When we didn't have the toothbrush, even using our fingers was better than nothing. My daughter enjoyed having her gums brushed—we suspect that the gentle massage felt good on sore gums. Make this a part of your bath-time, bedtime, or wake-up routine.

You want to prepare for your baby's first visit to the dentist.

Brushing your baby's teeth helps prepare him or her for their first visit to the dentist. WebMD notes that this should happen around baby's first birthday, or within six months of the appearance of first teeth. That's earlier than our parents took us to the dentist. I started bringing my girls to the dentist with me at a young age, at least so the dentist could take a quick peek in their mouths, and so that they could become accustomed to the office and the dentist himself. Dental care starts earlier for children than ever before, and you want to be prepared for that first dental visit. Start gently brushing your baby's teeth while they are young.

Get your child accustomed to brushing their teeth.

If you wait until your child has a full mouth of teeth before you begin, you may encounter some resistance on their part. Start building good dental habits when your child is just a baby, and then a morning and nightly routine of tooth brushing won't seem foreign to them. Regular brushing helps form good, maintainable, habits.

Cavities happen in even the smallest teeth.

Even though your baby might not be eating sweets and drinking soda, germs can infiltrate even the smallest teeth and cause cavities. Baby teeth filled with cavities may need the intervention of a dentist, which could be upsetting to small children. While a visit to the dentist is necessary for toddlers, you don't want your child's first dental experience to include a filling. Get brushing!

Don't make brushing their teeth a chore.

Singing songs while brushing my children's teeth has worked well. Not only do songs help children (and parents) brush long enough, but they also keep children entertained. Sing a favorite nursery rhyme or song while brushing your baby's teeth and they're more likely to let you accomplish the task at hand.

In addition, when your baby is old enough to want to do it themselves, let them try their hand at tooth brushing, too. They may enjoy it more and take pride in what they've done.

Brushing your baby's teeth may improve their overall health.

Not only does twice daily brushing of baby's gums and teeth form positive habits and prevent cavities, but it promotes good dental hygiene. Good dental hygiene goes beyond healthy teeth—there's a correlation between oral health and overall health, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, brushing your child's teeth sets the stage for more than good dental health.

Resources:

Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dental/DE00001

WebMD; http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/childs-first-dental-visit

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