Do You Need to Brush Baby Teeth?
Baby teeth are the first teeth to appear in the mouth, by around 6 months of age. By around age 8, they begin to fall out and get replaced by permanent, adult teeth.
Since baby teeth are temporary, do we really need to worry about them so much? Do they need to be brushed and cared for?
The simple answer is that, yes, baby teeth are very important. It’s just as crucial to take care of those teeth as the later permanent teeth.
Why are baby teeth important?
Considering they’re meant to fall out eventually, why are baby teeth considered important? Why does it matter when they fall out?
Baby teeth serve a vital role in the healthy development of the mouth.
One of the most important aspects is that they help to guide the adult teeth when they start to erupt. If a baby tooth falls out too early, it can lead to an adult tooth coming out crooked, crowded, or even fail to crown properly.
Baby teeth that get cavities or infections are able to cause problems just like adult teeth. Gingivitis or periodontitis in a child’s jaw will prevent the jaw developing properly. This isn’t just a matter of teeth not crowning through the gum properly — the jawbone itself can become damaged or distorted due to childhood illness.
How to care for baby teeth
Baby teeth are, luckily, very easy to care for.
Firstly, diet plays a huge role in the health of baby teeth. Young children should not drink juice or other high-sugar drinks with any sort of regularity. Put them to bed with a bottle of water, not juice or milk.
This is the first line of defense in keeping baby teeth in place for as long as they need to be.
In terms of brushing baby teeth, it will depend on how old the child is.
When the teeth first start to appear, no toothpaste is necessary. Gently wiping each tooth with a damp, soft cloth is more than enough to clean the teeth and prevent plaque buildup.
When all of the baby teeth have appeared, you can start to use a pea-sized bit of toothpaste. For best results, use a specially formulated children’s toothpaste. It’s lower in fluoride and poses less of a risk if the child ends up swallowing it. This will be around 3-4 years of age.
Eventually your child will be able to brush their own teeth. This should be done with a soft-bristle toothbrush, again with a small amount of toothpaste, and under your supervision.
Flossing is not strictly necessary, although your dentist may suggest it after they examine your child’s mouth.
With these simple hygiene steps, your child’s baby teeth will stay right where they’re supposed to until it’s time to be replaced naturally.
Is toothpaste safe for babies?
We touched on this above, but will go into detail here.
Toothpaste is not recommended for infants. A damp cloth wrapped around a finger is all they need to keep their teeth clean.
Toothpaste shouldn’t be used until the child is a few years old, and even then in very small amounts.
The main concern is that the child will swallow the toothpaste. This can lead to an excess of fluoride in their system, resulting in fluoridosis. This is a condition where too much fluoride creates hard white patches or streaks on the adult teeth that haven’t erupted from the gum yet.
Children’s toothpastes are specially formulated to contain less fluoride. It’s still enough to strengthen tooth enamel, but shouldn’t cause issues if the child accidentally swallows it on occasion.