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Just like other basic needs that you as a responsible parent instinctively adorn, good dental hygiene practices for your tot are as much a part and parcel of overall well-being at every stage: birth, sitter, crawler and toddler. At times basics elude the best of us. What's the best way to brush my baby's teeth? Does my baby need fluoride/brushing/dental visits?
Even before he sports the first tooth, it's prudent to simply rub gums gently with a soft wet muslin/washcloth wrapped around your index finger at bath time. Harmful bacteria usually cannot damage till teeth emerge, but, they can push through suddenly. Also, having mouth cleaned daily makes transition into brushing easier.
Teething troubles precede cutting of first tooth (usually, 4-6 months). Sterilized teethers/healthy chewing, e.g., apple or carrot reduce infections and curb the urge to suck/chew on any object within sight. Milk bottle left in sleeping baby's mouth causes tooth decay even when there are only few teeth. Dilute sweetened liquids to the ratio of 10:1.
Introduce brushing. However, baby does not need any toothpaste yet.
Choose a baby toothbrush with an angled head, soft-ended bristles of varying lengths and a grip suitable for you. Brush with small, gentle circular movements, focusing on the area where teeth and gums meet. Sitting baby on your lap, facing a mirror helps. This works well for a squirming toddler, too. Not all like the process; don't give up! Don't battle. Instead, make it fun. Time an egg timer to at least two minutes. Brush your own teeth alongside. Watch a video on brushing, together. Visuals reinforce. Don't fret if the little one just chews on it. Allow a go at it while guiding the hand. Never let toddler run with toothbrush in the mouth as it could cause hurt or choking. Soon you will fathom what works best for your baby.
During 1 year-18 months, developing teeth can benefit from some fluoride. This mineral strengthens enamel and makes it more resistant to acids/harmful bacteria. Too much causes white spots to surface on adult teeth. Pea-sized toothpaste is advised until your child learns to rinse and spit it out. Mostly, water and fruit juices are fortified with adequate fluoride, although labels don't always list. Change toothbrushes every three months or sooner if bristles start spreading out.
Between 6 months to 1 year old a paediatric dentist may seem unnecessary. Early paediatric dental routine check-up is a preventive measure against tooth and/or oral infections, e.g., early childhood caries. Dentist will examine baby's bite; signs of decay; potential problems with gums, jaw/oral tissues; educate about oral health care basics; and answer queries. Repeat check-ups, preferably every 6 months. This builds the baby's comfort level and helps the dentist to monitor any developing problem. Being judicious from the start gives lifelong healthy results.