Even before your baby sports his first tooth it’s a good idea to get into the habit of wiping his gums with gauze or a soft wet washcloth during bath time. You don’t need to use any toothpaste yet. Simply wrap the cloth or gauze around your index finger and rub it gently over his gums.
Bacteria in the mouth usually can’t harm the gums before the teeth emerge, but it can be hard to tell when the teeth are starting to push through, so you’ll want to start early. Getting your baby used to having his mouth cleaned as part of his daily routine should make it easier to transition into tooth brushing later on, too.
As your child’s teeth start to appear (generally around 6 months), look for a baby toothbrush with a small head and grip suitable for your hand. If your child is healthy and still hasn’t gotten her first tooth by the end of her first year, don’t worry – some children don’t start getting teeth until 15 to 18 months.
- Brush twice a day. Brush in the morning and right before bedtime.
- Use a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste. To avoid giving your child too much fluoride, use a thin smear of toothpaste or a dot the size of a grain of rice.
- Brush gently on the inside and outside of each of your baby’s teeth, as well as her tongue (if she’ll let you), to dislodge bacteria that can cause bad breath. Since you’re using such a small amount of toothpaste, there’s no need to rinse.
- Replace the toothbrush as soon as the bristles start to look worn or splayed.
For now, your baby’s teeth are probably far enough apart that you don’t have to worry about flossing. In fact, there’s no evidence that flossing baby teeth makes a difference. Most dentists recommend starting to floss when tooth surfaces touch and you can’t clean them with a toothbrush.