main logo

Baby Teeth: When To Brush And What Toothpaste

Today’s answered questions are all about baby teeth. There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding when and what to do with those baby teeth. Here’s the quick scoop:

When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?

The short answer is when they have broken through the gum line. Now I don’t personally get too worked up about the tiny little single tooth that is just barely starting to protrude through the gums. I am much more formal about my twice daily brushing with my kiddos once there is a row of teeth. For some kids that’s as early as 6-8 months, while for others it is more like 10-11 months. It all depends on how quickly the child teethes. Now that doesn’t mean that I’m not paying attention earlier. I find it easy enough to wipe the teeth off after my baby has eaten and I’m already wiping off their face (when they are in that early, super messy, high-chair stage). I’ll also help rinse off the teeth with a final drink of water out of the sippy cup before I get the child out of the highchair.

How do I prevent bottle rot?

“Bottle rot” happens when milk sugars repeatedly sit on the back of the teeth and cause tooth decay. If you’ve seen those kiddos with silver caps all along the front teeth then you know what I’m talking about. Bottle rot is a bit of a misnomer. While it usually happens from babies being put to bed with bottles, it can certainly happen from babies who breastfeed off and on all night (i.e., the babies who co-sleep with mom and breast feed all throughout the night, falling asleep on the boob). Once your baby has some teeth, get the order correct. First, give the milk. Second, brush the teeth. Finally, lay the baby in bed. The key is brushing the teeth between milk and bedtime. Never give a baby a bottle of milk (or juice for that matter) in bed.

What toothpaste should I use?

There are essentially 3 stages of toothpaste:

“Trainer” toothpastes are essentially designed for babies and toddlers (think 6 months to 2 ½ years old). They taste good and are safe for a child to swallow. Trainer toothpastes do not have fluoride (to prevent “fluorosis”– or an excess of fluoride, since the very young child cannot reliably spit it out).

The second stage of toothpaste is the “kid” toothpastes. These toothpastes usually have popular characters on the front and kid-friendly flavors like “tooty-fruity” and “bubble gum.” These toothpastes have fluoride and are designed to be used by children who are old enough to spit and not swallow the toothpaste. (For most kids, that is around 2 ½ years old).

The final stage of toothpaste is essentially the “adult” toothpastes. Most people transition to these toothpastes in the teen years. These toothpastes have more mature flavors like “mint” and are angled at helping things like promoting fresh breath and preventing plaque or tarter build up. These toothpastes also have fluoride in them.

When Should Your Child See The Dentist The First Time

A couple of weeks ago, I took my children to the dentist for their semiannual checkups. I decided to have my 1 year-old checked out at the same time, since I was going. I probably shouldn’t admit that I hadn’t taken my other kids that early. It seems that in the community where I live and practice, many of the dentists don’t see kids before the age of 2. Maybe, that’s just my excuse for missing the boat with my first two. Nevertheless, the visit was easy. It took all of 8 minutes total to polish my baby’s 12 teeth and hold her mouth open while she screamed and the dentist took a look. We walked away cavity free. I patted myself on the back for finally getting it right (third times a charm), and one more thing got checked off the never ending “to do” list.

You may be surprised to find out that your child is supposed see the dentist at 12 months of age or within 6 months of the first tooth eruption, whichever comes soonest. This is the official recommendation of the American Dental Association (ADA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). After the initial visit, your child should have routine check-ups every 6 months. So, if you haven’t done it, it’s probably time to take your child to the dentist.