How to Care for Your Baby’s First Teeth

a baby brushing his teeth

When Stellan cut his first two teeth at a little over five months old, I broke out in a cold sweat. On top of brushing and flossing my teeth and brushing my dogs’ teeth, I’d have to add baby Stellan’s choppers to the list. Although, realistically, it would only add about five minutes to our daily routine, I envisioned five painfully tedious minutes that I had been hoping to avoid for at least a few more months. Even worse was the thought that if he developed tooth decay, it would be entirely my fault. Clearly, his tooth buds were bringing up some emotional dental hygiene baggage for me.

However, when at Stellan’s six-month well-baby visit I asked his pediatrician how to best take care of his pearly whites, she said that simply rubbing them with a washcloth would suffice for the time being. Upon further probing, she assured me that there was no need for toothpaste or even a toothbrush just yet. What’s most important in early baby dental care is to get your baby used to having his teeth and gums cleaned.

Dr. Michel Cohen, founder of Tribeca Pediatrics, agrees. “Tooth brushing is nice,” he explained, “but its efficacy is limited on young kids.” Very early tooth brushing mostly helps babies and toddlers develop a healthy habit that will serve them well a little later in life. According to Dr. Cohen, the most important thing you can do to prevent your baby’s teeth from developing cavities is to “avoid [feeding your baby] anything sugary and sticky,” such as dried fruits, gummy bears, or sugar-coated cereals. He also suggests not giving babies and toddlers juice or milk at bedtime or in the middle of the night.

Although I now give his teeth and gums a quick swipe with a washcloth morning and night, Stellan seems to enjoy “brushing” them himself with his silicone baby toothbrush while sitting in his high chair. I’m not sure how effective his technique is, but, hopefully, it’s fostering a healthy habit while providing some relief from teething.

Do you have any special baby dental care techniques? How about tips for making oral hygiene more fun for you and your little one?