My baby has a grand total of… six tiny pearly whites. Should I bother to brush his teeth?
Yes, says Dr Sara Song Ok, a dental surgeon at T32 who has a special interest in paediatric dentistry.
Even before his first tooth appears – usually at around four months old – you should get him used to cleaning his gums with a piece of moist gauze. This also reduces the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
Once Baby has six to eight teeth when he’s about 12 months old, use a small toothbrush and water to clean them, advises Dr Ok. Brush before bedtime and after breakfast.
How often should I change his toothbrush?
Every three months. But if he tends to bite the bristles, and they splay to the side, it’s time to get a new one, says Dr Ok. Be sure to air-dry it between uses. Don’t cover the brush head because a wet environment encourages bacteria growth.
What if he doesn’t like having a toothbrush in his mouth?
Kids learn best by imitation. Brush your teeth together with him, so he can see what you’re doing and copy you, suggests Dr Ok. You can also jazz up the experience by humming his favourite song.
What about toothpaste?
Using the right toothbrush and water is sufficient for babies under two years old. But after his second birthday, you can introduce a smear of non-fluorinated toothpaste the size of a rice grain.
When your toddler learns to spit out most of the toothpaste, you can increase it to an amount the size of a pea, says Dr Ok.
Some babies prone to cavities, as well as those with defective enamel and low saliva flow, may need to use toothpaste at an earlier age.
Your child’s dentist will advise if it’s needed – yes, take him to see one around 12 to 16 months.