advice

brilliant brushing:
caring for your baby or toddler’s teeth

how to clean baby teeth

Your baby’s first tooth is an exciting milestone – and the start of some fabulous toothy grins! If you start some good dental habits now, your little one should enjoy a lifetime of strong, healthy teeth.

when to start brushing your baby’s teeth

As soon as the first tiny tooth bud peeps through, it’s time to start brushing your baby’s teeth (or tooth). Use a soft baby toothbrush along with a smidgeon of baby toothpaste. Brush in the morning and again before bed, after the last drink of the day.

Sit your baby comfily on your lap, and brush their teeth with small, circular movements. Be very gentle, as their gums will be tender. No need to rinse out their mouth with water afterwards – leaving a little toothpaste behind on their teeth helps it work better.

getting your toddler on side

Toddlers can be resistant to most things, so it’s not surprising they’re not always keen about tooth brushing. A simple way to get toddler buy-in is to take them shopping for their own toothbrush – there's loads of jazzy options available.

Your independent toddler may want to brush their own teeth. Let them have a go but make sure you check they clean every bit thoroughly. A mirror can help keep them focussed on what they’re doing. As ever, a reward chart and stickers can encourage them to keep going.

understanding fluoride

Fluoride is a mineral found in water which helps prevent tooth decay. In UK regions where there isn’t much naturally-occurring fluoride, it’s added to the water supply. You can get too much of a good thing though, and ‘fluorosis’ (white spots on the teeth) is caused by an excess of it. Your dentist should know what your local fluoride levels are.

It’s important to choose an age-appropriate toothpaste for your young brusher. Children under three need a toothpaste containing 1,000ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. Over three, they can share small amounts of your toothpaste.

tooth-friendly foods

It’s unrealistic to expect children to never eat sweet things. However, keep these to a minimum and serve them as part of a meal rather than as a snack, brushing afterwards if possible. There are lots of delicious snacks for babies and toddlers that won’t harm their teeth. Try raw fruit and vegetables, wholemeal toast, breadsticks, or crackers with butter, cheese or hummus.

Fizzy and sugary drinks should be avoided and encouraging your child to drink milk and water is a great idea. A beaker of diluted fruit juice is another great option.

keeping little gnashers healthy

If you and your little one get into the habit of regular check-ups from an early age, hopefully they’ll never develop any fear of going. Take them for their first appointment when their milk teeth show through. Most dentists recommend six-monthly visits – and remember, NHS dental treatment is free for under 18’s.

A visit to the dentist is your chance to ask any teeth-related questions. From your little one’s point of view, visiting the dentist can be fun. After all, with the moving chair and fabulous array of stickers – what's not to love?