Gum and tooth cleansing is an important activity to start early in a baby’s life to establish good oral hygiene habits. It’s very important to me as a speech-language pathologist, because healthy teeth play a large role in eating and speaking. Baby teeth are place holders for permanent teeth. They need to be cared for appropriately so the permanent teeth are welcomed into a healthy home.
What is oral hygiene?
The practice of keeping the mouth and teeth clean to prevent dental and gum problems and bad breath.
Why is it important?
It helps to prevent dental and gum disease and decay. In populations at risk for aspiration, it can help reduce the risk.
No teeth yet? Start caring for your baby’s gums now!
Use a finger brush, clean, damp, soft washcloth, or a gauze to gently rub baby’s gums and tongue after meals and before bed. Make it part of a routine so baby knows what to expect and is therefore more relaxed. Start out slow, spending just a short time in baby’s mouth at first, gradually increasing time and activity with brushing. Make it fun! Remember, while it’s about establishing good oral health, it’s also about creating a positive association with mouth care.
Once teeth begin to erupt, you can start using a soft bristled baby toothbrush. Go for a large handle toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. Use a pea size amount of kiddo toothpaste. Check the package info for age recommendations. Gently brush all around each tooth and massage the gums. Brush baby’s gums and teeth at least twice a day.
I started oral care with my son at four months old, when he started eating solids. Not only was it important for me to rid his mouth of bacteria, milk and food residuals but I also wanted to get him used to gum and tooth brushing. It’s a sensory experience that typically requires some conditioning for babies and toddlers to accept. My goal was to get my son used to the sensation of bristles and textures in his mouth other than nipples and liquid. So here is what I’ve done with my little guy so far:
- Incorporated gum brushing into our daily routine. Of course, it doesn’t always happen but I try to stay as consistent as possible to establish good habits and value. I brush my baby’s gums as part of our morning dressing routine (after breakfast) and before bedtime during our pajama routine (after dinner).
- I use a fingertip brush and pea size amount of baby toothpaste.
- Brush top and bottom gums in a gentle sweeping and circular motion, brush the roof of his mouth and the front of his tongue (I may be a little more aggressive than you wish to be, I’m a speech therapist, the mouth is my thing!)
- I sing a song while brushing- “brush your teeth, shhhhshhhhshhh, brush the top, shhhshhhshhh, brush the bottom, shhhshhhshhh, brush all around and up and down, brush your teeth,shhhshhhshhh”
- Now that my little is getting older and wiser, I’ve started letting him hold and play with his own toothbrush. This Baby Buddy 360 Toothbrush is a great starter brush for sensitive gums.
- I brush my baby’s gums twice a day.
- I provide verbal praise and excitement when finished- “Yay, all done! Good job brushing your teeth!”
It’s recommended that children have their first dental visit by age one and that toothbrushing be supervised up til six years of age. I fully agree with this and need to start looking for a pediatric dentist in my area. I also recommend having baby watch you brush your teeth. This helps to learn by seeing. My son definitely has a tooth bud popping out on his bottom front. He’s drooling like a leaky faucet also. Should be some good teething posts to come! As for now, I challenge you to get in your baby’s mouth! Let me know if you have any questions.