Oral care is much more than a few items to pick up at the store, and it should begin much earlier than when actual teeth are involved. Not only should successful oral care start early, like “Newborn Baby Early”, there’s more to it than just brush, spit, repeat. It begins when life begins!
Babies have delicate and actively developing immune systems, in fact, their immune system doesn’t fully start working on its own until around 3 months of age and then continues to get more effective with time.
Infants are more susceptible to exposure from new bacteria and viruses in the earliest stages of being introduced to this amazing new world.
- Keep baby at home, as much as possible, during the first 3 months, which helps eliminate exposure to bacteria and viruses by inhalation and direct contact.
- Help prevent oral infections by wiping and cleaning your baby’s mouth at least once a day to begin with and more often, when needed, as they grow and develop.
- Thrush can happen when the normal candida fungus, that live in the mouth naturally, get imbalanced and then proliferate into an infection. Thrush presents itself as white, thick, patches on the tongue, gums and tissues that won’t rub off.
- Up until about 3 months of age, there’s not much saliva to help wash away the milk residue that can build up in your baby’s mouth, so starting an oral care routine early is key.
- After 3 months of age, the salivary glands start producing fountains of liquid where drool elicits the need for bibs and towels.
Early Oral Care
- Use a sterile cloth to gently wipe baby’s gums, tongue, and inside cheeks with after feedings.
- You are training yourself and your baby to adapt to, and accept this new routine. Studies in early oral care prevention have shown that children who were introduced to early brushing and gum wiping routines had a significant reduction in the incidence of oral care diseases and cavities later on in life.
- Babies are programmed to be oral explorers in those first few years of life. From suckling to teething, their most dominant sense during this time frame is oral stimulation.
- Babies love to have their mouths wiped and cleaned, it is a sensory activity for them that forms a trusting bond with you.
- For the first 5 years of a child’s life, YOU are the one who will be doing ALL of the oral care for your child.
- Children usually do not acquire the proper dexterity to effectively brush their own teeth until around age 5, and in some cases, later than that.
Babies can begin to teethe as early as 3 months of age. This is the time frame where saliva increases as the mouth prepares for the arrival of the infamous “First Tooth”. Many children will get their first tooth between 4-8 months of age, yet some pass their first birthday still sporting a toothless smile. No matter what time frame your child falls into, “teething” is a foundational milestone that you and your child will go through together that creates a great opportunity for you to continue an early oral care routine.
- Introduce a silicone toothbrush to oral care time.
- A great choice to start with is a finger toothbrush, where the brush fits snugly over an adult’s finger, it has small bristles on one side that you will use to brush with in the mouth.
- Execute this by rubbing and brushing over baby’s gums and tongue.
**Brilliant Oral Care has the best baby finger toothbrush.**
At some point, your baby will be in full “active teething”, with all the chewing, biting, gnawing and probable fussing, your heart (and ears) can handle. This is a stage where they will put just about anything in their mouth, so caution and supervision is monumentally important.
You may suddenly notice how strong their little bite has become when you try to put your finger in their mouth for brushing or wiping. This is a good time to transition to a silicone teether-toothbrush design.
Additionally, you may notice little swollen bumps in the mouth on the gums. Not to worry, those are little teeth trying very hard to peek through the tissue. Allow your baby to teethe on safe items as much as possible to help ease discomfort.
- When you use silicone teethers, you can also chill and freeze many of them, which helps to provide pain relief.
- Be sure to wash teethers, brushes, and any toys that your baby chews on regularly.
Finally, at some point, the first tooth will emerge through the gums. Once a tooth fully erupts into the mouth, it’s time to add a bristled toothbrush to the routine. This is a time frame where baby will still be teething and need teething relief, but will have new teeth that will need a good bristle brushing as well.
Keep using the silicone toothbrush and add in the bristle toothbrush for the newly erupted baby teeth.
- Bristle toothbrushes are not to be used as teethers by babies or chewed on by children.
- The bristles are not meant to be chewed or bitten, nor is the plastic handle designed for that type of bite pressure.
- Biting down on bristles can cause painful mouth ulcers by piercing the gum tissue.
- Remember, YOU are performing all the oral care, starting from birth until your child is about 5 years old.
- Begin teaching your child how to spit as soon as you start brushing their teeth, but don’t be dismayed as this milestone can take time to achieve.
- Don’t use fluoride until your child can safely and completely spit out all the paste residue
If oral care has been absent up to this point, don’t worry, but NOW is the time to get a regular routine started. Early childhood caries (cavities) is considered the most chronic infectious disease that plagues our children today. It can begin early, progress rapidly, and often goes untreated until there are painfully obvious visual or sensory symptoms.
Children should visit the dentist for their first “Smile Visit” somewhere between the first tooth appearing and the first birthday, whichever comes first. This is when they will be examined for normal anatomy and function, oral care routines will be reviewed, and future visits will be determined.
Toddlers are defined as children between the ages of 1- 3years old. As they grow, so does their diet. Oftentimes consuming more sticky, gummy, and chewy foods. Silicone toothbrushes should be removed from the oral care routine once all the front teeth have come in. Most toddlers will get their first molar tooth between the 13-19 month stage.
- By now you should have had their first dental visit.
- They are steadily working their way to eating mostly solid foods.
- Oral care is now a daily repetitive routine that must be done…by you.
- Use a toddler toothbrush everyday to clean the teeth, especially at night before bedtime.
- Be sure to reach the tops of the back molar teeth when brushing.
- Find the best toothbrush for kids, and use it everyday.
Baby teeth matter, so it’s important to keep them healthy and disease free until the permanent adult teeth are ready to come in. Just because baby teeth eventually fall out, does NOT make their oral care any less important.
Baby teeth are spaced just right to allow for the growth and development of the jaw, skull and incoming adult teeth. Any disruption in that pattern can affect many factors that will ultimately have an impact on future eruption patterns and bone development.
Start oral care early, with interventions that help build lasting routines, for healthy smiles all around!
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This article is intended to provide an understanding of and knowledge about “oral health topics” as expressed through the perspective and experience of the author. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice or counsel, including the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, an oral condition, illness or treatment of any listed or non listed situation above. By using this site, you signify your assent to our Terms and Conditions. If you do not agree to all of these Terms and Conditions, do not use this site.
DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is the oral care specialist and dental consultant to the Brilliant and Baby Buddy oral care lines through Compac Industries. See terms below
Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.