How to take care of babies’ first teeth with Dr Rishi Nanavati
Babies usually start getting their first teeth around six months, but even before the first tooth appears it’s important to start caring for your child’s gums and teeth. The sooner you start, the less likely your child will experience tooth decay and cavities, which affects about 1 in 4 (23%) of 5-year-olds. However, a recent survey shows that UK mothers are confused about early-year gum and tooth care for their babies and toddlers. Moreover, 88% of parents say toothbrushing is a stressful event for their family.
Nelsons® Teetha® asked private dentist, Dr Rishi Nanavati @dish_by_rish, to share his oral health advice for babies and tips on regular oral care routine at home.
Introduce a toothbrush once the first tooth has come through
You can start brushing the teeth as soon as the first primary tooth erupts through the gums. There’s no need to brush the gums if no teeth have come through. The first teeth to come through will normally be the lower front two teeth around 6-10 months, but don’t be alarmed if this happens slightly earlier or later.
To brush your baby's teeth, place your baby on your lap but keep them facing forwards. Try to have a mirror in front of you, if possible, to help guide you with the toothbrush. Place one hand on your baby's torso just to keep them stable so they don't wriggle too much. And brush their teeth in light circular motions with your other hand. It may take some time for your baby to get used to this but persevere as it will slowly form into your child's routine.
Avoid letting your baby brush their own teeth and most importantly, do not allow the baby to walk/run off with the brush in their mouth as this can be hazardous if they were to fall.
Brush your child's teeth twice a day
Brushing is advised twice a day with one of those times being the last thing at night. Avoid brushing right after meals or feeds as the mouth will be in an acidic environment, and hence brushing right after a meal actually causes teeth to wear away. The nighttime brush is the most important one as teeth are more prone to cavities during the night. This is because our mouths naturally dry out and saliva is what helps to protect our teeth. I always recommend brushing first thing in the morning and last thing at night to my patients, however, it’s also absolutely fine to brush last thing at night and any other time during the day.
Schedule a dental examination
Bring your baby to the dentist as soon as their teeth start to come through. We can keep a track of their dental development to make sure everything is happening as it should! We may also have some extra tips and guidance on managing teething or what to expect next. We’re very much used to seeing little ones in the chair and it’s helpful to see children earlier on as we can advise on the correct routines and habits to ensure good prevention and healthy teeth!
Look at the fluoride content in a toothpaste
The main thing to be aware of with toothpaste is that it must contain fluoride in order to be protective. The fluoride content is written as a number followed by ‘ppm’. For children aged 0-3 this number should be no less than 1000ppm. Most toothpaste companies should have the age range clearly labelled on their packaging, and this will say either 0-2 or 0-3.
To ensure a general good routine for prevention and good oral health for babies and toddlers aged 0-3, Dr Rishi shares the following tips:
- Encourage a free-flow cup from 6 months, and from aged one, feeding from a bottle should be discouraged
- Avoid sugar in weaning foods or drinks
- Parents and carers should be the ones brushing
- Reduce the frequency and amount of sugary foods and drinks
- Choose sugar-free medicines over sugar medicines if required