First teeth – caring tips

As soon as your baby’s first teeth start to appear you should start brushing them twice a day with a toothbrush specially designed for babies little mouths.

Babies accept things that are familiar to them, so do let them hold a brush, without toothpaste, to get used to the feel of it, but don’t be surprised if they start brushing their teeth, their hair, and even their favourite toy with it! Letting your baby watch you brush your teeth will also help encourage them to see it as a normal daily routine not to be scared of. Click here for more information on brushing

Should I use fluoride toothpaste?
Fluoride comes from a number of different sources including toothpaste, specific fluoride applications and perhaps the drinking water in your area. These can all help to prevent tooth decay. If you are unsure about using fluoride toothpaste ask your dentist, health visitor or health authority. The current advice is to use a pea-sized smear of a toothpaste containing at least 1000ppm of fluoride. You can check the level of fluoride on the packaging of the toothpaste. Children should be supervised up to the age of 7, and you should make sure that they spit out the toothpaste and don’t swallow any if possible.

Tooth decay
Brushing removes plaque, a sticky, colourless film which builds up on the teeth containing bacteria, saliva and milk/food debris. The bacteria in plaque convert sugar from juice or milk into acid and this can cause the teeth to decay so it is vitally important that you keep sugary foods to a minimum. Don’t forget the hidden sugars either – check the ingredients listings on foods and drinks for words like fructose, sucrose, dextrose and syrup.

Sweet versus savoury
Once on solids, try to encourage your baby to like savoury foods and be careful not to pass on any negativity you may have about ‘eating your greens’ etc. There is no reason why most children should not like vegetables, particularly if you try to make them fun, for example you could ask them to imagine broccoli florets as little trees etc. Start them on pureed vegetables (see First Foods) and natural fruit juice diluted in water. While fruit juice may sound healthy it is important to dilute it for small children because fruit is naturally high in sugar and the acid can dissolve the teeth. Also bear in mind that sugary drinks are more likely to cause tooth decay if they are taken between mealtimes or just before bed, so try to only give them with food. Similarly, dummies should never be dipped in honey or other sweet substance.

Visiting the dentist
Although most babies don’t have their first dental check up until around the age of two, it’s a good idea to take them with you when you go for a check up so that they have time to get used to the dentist and familiarise themselves with the strange environment. See First Dental Visit for more information.