No teeth? No problem. While it’s never too late to establish good oral hygiene habits, there are a couple things you can do even before your little one’s first tooth makes an appearance. 

We sat down with Dr. Fatina, renowned board certified pediatric dentist and mom, to answer your most pressing baby brushing questions.

When should you start brushing your baby’s teeth? And what’s the best way to start? 

As early as possible, but it’s never too late to establish good oral hygiene habits. Even before your child has teeth, there are a couple of things you can do. 

To start, you can use a wet 2x2 gauze, finger brush or Banana Brush for no more than 10 seconds to massage and wipe the gums of your baby twice a day. This helps to remove any sugary milk residue. Once your baby has teeth, I recommend using a child’s soft bristled toothbrush, brushing twice a day to begin the brushing routine. 

It’s important to establish a dental home during that time because by 3-years-old, your child will typically have twenty baby teeth. If a good oral hygiene routine is not established early on, cavities can result and usually persist into the future.

When should your child first visit the dentist?

Your child’s first dental visit should be by 12-months-old or within 6 months of the first tooth eruption. The first dental visit is like a well visit with the pediatrician. The goal is to establish a comfortable setting with the dentist and receive lots of education about diet and good oral hygiene habits. During this first visit your dentist is essentially there to answer all of your questions and make you comfortable!

During this first appointment, your dentist will typically assess the overall health of the teeth (if they’re present) and discuss if fluoride is needed. Sometimes, if plaque is present a cleaning may be necessary, but mostly we’ll discuss topics that impact teeth development: baby bottle decay, pacifier and thumb habits, diet, teething, brushing, flossing and everything oral health related.

Instilling good dental hygiene and healthy habits at a young age can make all the difference in your child’s health. It’s never too early! 

Should you use fluoride toothpaste for babies?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using a rice grain amount of fluoride toothpaste as soon as the baby teeth begin to erupt ( usually at 6-months-old). When the child learns to spit at 3-years-old, it is recommended to use a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

What should you do if your baby refuses to let you brush their teeth? 

Don't be discouraged with crying! One of the most common reasons I'm told that parents aren’t brushing is because the child Is crying. Set realistic expectations and start slow. Even if you start with just 20-seconds, you can slowly increase that length over time. The more you do it the more you will desensitize your child and develop the habit. 

What's the best way to get your child used to brushing their teeth? 

Make it part of your child's routine! Creating structure and keeping the same routine is super helpful for your child. For instance, if you establish brushing after breakfast you should consistently do the brushing after that time. This way your little one will become aware that it is tooth brushing time. The same goes for a nighttime routine. After the last feeding, if your routine is eat, bath then brush you should keep it the same each night. As your child gets older, around 18-months-old, you can also incorporate a visual schedule. This way they can see when brushing time takes place each day. 

When should you start flossing your child's teeth? 

You should start flossing your child's teeth as soon as the adjacent teeth are touching. 

About Dr. Fatina Shtivelman

Dr. Fatina Gramercy Kids Smiles Dentist

Dr. Fatina is a renowned board certified pediatric dentist, who has a private practice, Gramercy Kids Smiles located in New York City. She's an active member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association. Recently, she became the author of “A book about Teeth” which she was inspired to write by her son.