Brushing baby's pearly whites

By CANDIECE KNIGHT

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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ALTHOUGH most babies sprout at least two teeth by their first birthday, many parents prefer to wait until their children are much older to start brushing their teeth. This may be because toddlers generally like to put everything but toothbrushes into their mouths.

It is also believed by some parents that little teeth don't need such big hygiene just yet, and wiping them off with a wet rag should be enough until they can brush them on their own.

But dental surgeon Dr Sharon Robinson says taking care of baby's teeth shouldn't wait.

“You start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they start to come through. Baby teeth may be small, but they're important. They act as placeholders for adult teeth,” she says.

Before the teeth appear though, Robinson says it is OK to wipe down the baby's gums with a soft, moistened washcloth or a piece of gauze. She recommends doing this after feedings and before the little one nods off for bed. But she advises that this care routine is not enough once the teeth begin to emerge.

When shopping for a toothbrush for your baby's first teeth, Robinson recommends that you get one with soft bristles, a small head, and a large handle so your little camper can grab it and have a go.

“Brush baby's teeth twice a day for two minutes — in the morning and right before bedtime,” she advises. “Use a small smear of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). Brush gently, and replace the toothbrush as soon as the bristles start to look worn or splayed.”

She emphasises that only a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste be used, however, and that as soon as your toddler is old enough to spit it out, encourage them to do so.

“While a little fluoride is a good thing for your baby's teeth, too much of it can lead to a condition called fluorosis, which causes white spots to show up on your child's adult teeth,” she warns.

And for the little ones who hate brushing, she suggests that parents try the following tips:

•Set a light-hearted mood. Play peekaboo while brushing teeth to lighten the mood for all involved, particularly for babies and younger toddlers.

•Brush to the beat. Sing a favourite song or play some music.

•Race the clock. Set a timer or your phone's stopwatch.

•Involve a toy.

•Give him or her some responsibility.

•Reward good brushing.

“To encourage his or her interest in dental care, try a fun brush with a favourite character and bright colour. And let them watch mommy and daddy take good care of their own teeth, so they learn that it's a habit to keep for life,” she says.

But good dental care for babies is not just about brushing, Robinson adds. Some feeding habits can be detrimental to the child's dental and overall health.

“Putting baby to bed with a bottle of milk (or worse, juice) is notorious for causing cavities,” she says. “Don't leave your infant with a bottle for long periods of time, especially if you notice he's no longer feeding and is just using the bottle for comfort. Also, avoid giving your child fruit juices, sodas, and other sugary drinks. Give water instead.”

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