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When Should Parents Start Brushing Their Baby's Teeth?

Parents want to do everything they can to give their kids a healthy start, and this includes practicing good oral hygiene. As such, new parents often ask, “When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?”

The answer? You should begin cleaning your child’s mouth more or less right away. However, you can hold off on the toothbrush for a little while.

Starting within a few days of birth, most dentists and pediatricians recommend wiping an infant’s gums and tongue with a soft, moist washcloth or gauze. Doing so helps remove sugars and residue leftover from feeding, as well as natural mouth bacteria that can cause plaque buildup, which damages erupting baby teeth. Infant gums should be wiped at least twice a day, especially after meals. Once the first tooth erupts, it is time to brush.

How to brush baby teeth

First tooth, first brushing. That’s the typical rule of thumb.

  1. Select an infant toothbrush with a long handle and small, soft brush head.
  2. Moisten the toothbrush with water. No toothpaste should be used until a child is two years old, per the American Dental Association’s recommendation. It is unnecessary and may even be harmful until the child is old enough to spit it out.
  3. Brush each surface of the tooth with a gentle, circular motion.
  4. Do this twice a day.
  5. Once your child has two touching teeth, start flossing between them once a day. This typically occurs between ages 2 and 3.

If you have concerns or questions about brushing technique, toothpaste and fluoride usage, bite, tooth eruption, signs of decay, and other pediatric oral health concerns, talk to your child’s dentist or pediatrician. Your child’s first dental visit should happen once his or her first tooth erupts and no later than his or her first birthday; that is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, and most other dental and medical professionals.

Why brushing baby teeth matters

While primary teeth are only temporary, it is important to care for them as well as you do your adult teeth. They may fall out, but they do set the foundation, so to speak. Baby teeth help establish spacing for permanent teeth. They also aid in speech development. When they decay and rot, the surrounding gums can become infected and impact the growth and health of adult teeth. Furthermore, if they fall out or must be removed prematurely, this can set the stage for crowding and other problems when permanent teeth erupt.

What to do when your child won’t let you brush his or her teeth

Brushing can be a hard sell for kids of all ages. Here are a few tips to get your little one to open wide, or at least open.

  • Get comfortable. Hold your baby in your lap in a way that feels safe for him or her.
  • Be gentle with the toothbrush.
  • Sing a song or read a story. There are even apps, including brushing timers, stories and songs, to help the cause.
  • Open wide or brush your own teeth. Doing so may inspire your child to laugh or do the same.
  • Make a silly face or talk in a silly voice. Again, this may inspire a mouth-opening laugh and should also lighten the mood.
  • Ask around. See what tips and tricks friends, family members, coworkers and your dentist have used.

Starting healthy habits young can encourage healthy habits for a lifetime. Brushing your baby’s teeth gets you both into the routine. Eventually, you will pass the toothbrush and dental floss of to your child, and he and she will already be accustomed to twice-daily oral care.

When to buy a dental plan

Dental insurance plays a large role in ensuring people visit the dentist for regular exams and cleanings. Obtaining it for your entire family can save you money since preventive care, which helps prevent cavity-causing tooth decay, is typically covered at 100 percent. Dental insurance tends to be more affordable than people think and can be purchased for as little as $12 per month.

The Obamacare law includes pediatric dental and vision as essential health benefits, which include certain preventive care services and treatments at no additional cost to the insured. Health insurance plans sold on state-based and federally run exchanges must include pediatric dental and vision benefits unless a standalone plan is also available on the exchange.

While the Affordable Care Act does not require parents to obtain this coverage for their children, nor does it require them to obtain it for themselves, it is wise for the family’s decisionmaker(s) to factor it into annual health care expenses.

For assistance finding a plan that meets your family’s oral health and financial needs, contact a sales specialist, or get a no-obligation quote in under a minute—no personal information needed until you sign up.

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