Family and friends often shower expectant mothers with gifts such as baby gates and first-aid kits to help them keep their future babies safe and healthy. But what about options to help them take care of baby gums and teeth? Since babies will grow 20 baby teeth before the age of three (with many children growing the entire set before the age of two), it’s important to establish a good oral hygiene routine with your baby immediately.
Do You Need to Clean Baby Gums Before the Teeth Come In?
Yes! Cleaning your baby’s mouth from an early age is crucial to their future dental health. You don’t need to wait for teeth to show before starting an oral hygiene routine. In fact, the earlier you begin, the easier it will be to develop a routine with your baby, which can help make the transition to brushing even smoother.
Bacteria doesn’t harm baby gums before the teeth emerge. However, since all babies teethe differently, it may be difficult to identify when teeth are beginning to push through the gums. Additionally, the more comfortable a baby is with your finger in her mouth, the more at ease she’ll be when it comes time to use a toothbrush.
How to Brush Baby Gums Before the Teeth Come In
Before your baby’s teeth come in, wipe her gums every day using gauze or a soft wet washcloth. This can be done at any time throughout the day, but try to do it at around the same time each day so your baby recognizes this activity as part of her daily routine.
Bonus: When your baby starts to teethe, the feeling of your finger on her gums will counteract the pressure she feels from about-to-erupt teeth, which she may find soothing.
How to Promote Oral Hygiene Once Teeth Start to Emerge
As soon as your baby starts to sprout teeth, it’s time to purchase a baby toothbrush. These have small toothbrush heads and grips that make them easy to hold.
At this point you should be brushing your baby’s teeth and gums twice a day, according to the American Dental Association (ADA)—in the morning and before bed, especially if your baby is eating food (even if it has been pureed). Brush very gently on the outside and also on the inside of your baby’s teeth. Then, softly run the bristles over your baby’s gums and tongue too, if your baby allows you to.
Brushing at this age will loosen bacteria that causes bad breath—yes, even babies can get bad breath! Brushing is also important because it helps remove the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Cavities can develop in baby teeth, not just permanent teeth, so it’s extremely important to brush well and often.
Check with your dentist to find out whether you should be using baby toothpaste (with fluoride) or simply using nursery water (steam-distilled water that is available with fluoride and without) with the toothbrush. If your dentist or pediatrician recommends using fluoride, ask how much you should use. While fluoride helps teeth to develop, too much can also be dangerous.
Remember to schedule your baby’s first dental appointment by his first birthday. Getting your baby’s teeth checked and cleaned at an early age is the best way to prevent dental problems such as tooth decay, and dental visits provide you with an opportunity to ask any questions you might have about caring for your baby’s teeth. By establishing a good oral hygiene routine with your baby, you’ll help him develop long-lasting healthy habits.