When should you start brushing your baby’s teeth? What toothbrush and toothpaste to use? When should a baby have their first dental visit? When should you wean your baby from their pacifier? What about night feeds? These and a million more questions come to mind when your baby’s first teeth start coming through!
Today I bring to you all of this info and more, written by the expert herself, Dr Laura Maañon, from Dr.Roze Biohealth Clinic.
Enjoy the read!
Baby teeth development
Let’s start from the beginning… Dental care starts well before our baby’s first teeth make their appearance. Baby teeth or milk teeth start developing while babies are still in the womb around the 8th-10th week of pregnancy, and a newborn has a set of 20 teeth hidden in their gums.
That is why a good diet and taking your prenatal vitamins during pregnancy is key to start taking care of our baby’s teeth. Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies at this stage can lead to enamel defects.
When to start brushing?
With their first tooth. For most babies teeth begin to appear between 6-10 months (but it can be anything between 3-18 months!). Before that, we can start introducing a toothbrush as a game to get them into the habit but we don’t need to brush or clean our baby’s gums.
How to choose their toothbrush?
We have to look at different characteristics:
Handle: easy and comfortable grip (for both babies and parents)
Head: small and round or oval
Nylon (natural bristles tend to accumulate bacteria)
Ultra-soft bristles (up to 3 years old), soft bristles from 3 years old.
Density: 3 or 4 rows of bristles
Brands I like? Vitis, Jordan, Dr Brown..
And what about the toothpaste?
For toothpaste, the most important is that it contains remineralizing agents. And what does this mean? When we eat, especially sugars and carbohydrates, the bacteria in our mouth produce acids that cause demineralization and this weakens and softens the enamel. These remineralizing agents will help strengthen the enamel after an acid attack. We have two options:
Fluoride: This is the traditional remineralizing agent. It has been around for many years and it’s the most common to find in toothpastes. Recently, there is some concern regarding the neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption of fluoride, so some parents prefer to use an alternative.
If you choose to use a toothpaste with fluoride make sure that:
It has enough fluoride to be effective (1000ppm for children under 6 years old and 1450ppm for children over 6 years old)
You are using the right amount (we tend to use too much!):
A smear of toothpaste for children under 3 years old
The size of grain of rice for children between 3 and 6 years old
The size of a pea for children over 6 years old (and adults!)
Hydroxyapatite: It’s a form of calcium that makes 97% of our enamel (and it is also the major component of our bones). It helps remineralize (rebuild) the enamel without any known side effects.
Some good brands are RiseWell, Boka, DrBrite, Karex, Dr Pauhls..
So, why is the remineralization process so important? Dental caries or cavities occur when the demineralization of the enamel outweighs the remineralization, so you can heal small cavities and prevent new ones by remineralizing your teeth!
When should you brush their teeth?
Ideally between 30-60 minutes after eating but when this is not possible (let’s say your baby falls asleep when you feed them or you are late and they have breakfast on the go) then it is better to do it right before eating so at least we remove harmful bacteria from the tooth surface and minimize the damage.
Brushing at night before bed is non-negotiable and then you have to pick at least another time throughout the day. Usually the easiest is morning time but whatever works best for you and your family.
Pacifier…yes or no?
It is 100% your choice! In my experience, it is a really good tool to soothe your baby and it can help prevent more damaging habits such as thumb sucking.
If you decide to use one, try to avoid the cherry shape and opt for a flat and small reversible shape.
It is important to wean your baby ideally before 2 years old and no later than 3 years old to avoid problems with the developing jaws and the position of the teeth.
Night feeds, are they harmful for the teeth?
It is important to always check with your pediatrician about this because each case is different. But usually by the time your baby will get their first teeth they shouldn’t need night feeds. Of course it is not as simple as that and in real life night feeds are not only about needs or hunger but also about comfort and habits.
It is important to understand that milk (either formula or breastmilk) has a high content in sugar so it can potentially cause cavities given that during the night the saliva flow is lower so the milk will remain sitting on your baby’s teeth the whole night!
If possible, try to wean your baby from night feeds when they get their first teeth and try offering water instead.
When should I bring my baby for their first dental visit?
When they are 1 year old. Regardless if they have teeth or not they should visit the dentist within the first year of life. This way we can diagnose possible problems, give guidance to parents about diet, habits, oral hygiene and specially getting the baby used to the environment. It is important that their first visit is relaxed and fun, if a baby’s first time at the dentist is when they are in pain this will cause unnecessary stress.
What to expect from a baby’s first dental visit.
Most of the appointment will be a relaxed talk about your baby’s habits, what they eat and when, if they use a pacifier, night feedings, sleep patterns… How your baby sleeps can tell us a lot about their oral and general health! Frequent wake ups, snoring, mouth breathing, etc… can be red flags that need attention.
I will give you some tips to keep those teeth as healthy as possible and then I will show your baby the dental chair, some cool instruments and have a quick look around their mouth if they are comfortable with it.
I always try to make it fun for them. I know the impact a bad experience can have in adulthood so it is so important for me to make their first contact with the dentist a positive one.
If you have any further questions regarding your little one’s teeth (or yours!) please don’t hesitate to contact me on my Instagram @dr.lauramaanon or visit me in the clinic at Dr Roze Biohealth in DIFC, I’m looking forward to meeting you and your family!
Dr Laura Maanon