When Should Kids Start Brushing Their Teeth?
Good dental care begins before a baby’s first tooth appears. Just because you can’t see the teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.
Here’s when and how to care for those little choppers:
- Even before your baby starts teething, run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria.
- When your baby gets teeth, brush them with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). Use fluoride toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. (If you are using baby toothpaste without the fluoride, keep it to the same amount because you still want to minimize any toothpaste that is swallowed.)
- When two of your baby’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing between them.
- Around age 2, your child should learn to spit while brushing. Avoid giving your child water to swish and spit because this can make swallowing toothpaste more likely.
- Kids ages 3 and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Always supervise kids younger than 8 while brushing, as they’re likely to swallow toothpaste.
Even babies can get tooth decay. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle can harm a baby’s teeth. Sugars from juice, formula, or milk that stay on a baby’s teeth for hours can eat away at the enamel (the layer of the tooth that protects against tooth decay). This can lead to “bottle mouth” or “baby bottle tooth decay.” When this happens, the front teeth can get discolored, pocked, and pitted. Cavities might form and, in severe cases, the decayed teeth might need to be pulled.
When kids are 6 months old, they can switch from a bottle to a sippy cup (with a straw or hard spout). This helps prevent liquid from pooling around a child’s teeth. By their first birthday, they’ll have the motor skills and coordination to use the cup on their own.