Healthy Toothy Smiles
Teething can be a tricky time but keeping your little one’s teeth and gums clean will help avoid gum inflammation and pain caused when food and bacteria get caught under tiny gums flaps. As soon as their first pearly white pops up, it’s time to buy your munchkin’s first toothbrush! Introducing a healthy dental care routine for your little one now will help protect their new baby teeth from decay and instil healthy habits they will grow up with and take into adulthood.
Why clean toodlers teeth?
It's important to use a fluoride toothpaste, as this helps prevent and control tooth decay.
What do I need to do?
Brush from the very first tooth! Even one new baby tooth can get covered with plaque, so make sure introduce tooth brushing twice a day as soon as the first tooth makes an appearance.
Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small brush-head.
- Ensure toothless gums also get a clean with a soft flannel or DentalWipes
Choose a toothpaste with a gentle flavour and the correct level of fluoride for their age. Many young children cannot tolerate strong flavours, including mint. Only use a SMEAR of toothpaste, this way they won't swallow too much fluoride.
- Give your little one a teether to soothe sore gums - you can even cool it in the fridge for them. Brush-Baby teethers are designed to reach teething gums, even back teeth. They have textured, bristled and squashy surfaces to help clean gums while giving your baby something to bite down and chew on.
- If your little one likes to chew their toothbrush, give them our Chewable Toothbrush to chomp on. It is designed to clean teeth and gums while it's chewed.
Brush-Baby products to help
Stage 2 - Toddlers - Toothy Smiles
Daily dental care for your toddler
As soon as your baby’s first tooth comes through, it’s time to celebrate that milestone with a shopping trip to buy their first toothbrush. Even their first tooth will need to be cleaned every day, as once it arrives bacteria and plaque will start to cling to the tooth’s surface. Cleaning your little one’s teeth twice a day helps remove these bacteria and keep their mouth healthy and starts to get them used to the brushing routine. Don’t forget toothless gums will also need a gentle clean as well.
Children aren’t actually capable of brushing their own teeth effectively until they reach 6 years old, so it’s good to establish a healthy brushing routine as early as you can. When you’re starting out, try sitting them up on your lap and maybe singing a song to introduce an element of fun. Use a small headed, soft-bristled toothbrush and just a smear of toothpaste (think the size of a grain of rice).
You should aim to brush your little’s one’s teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day. The key with toothbrushing is to make it fun and to show your little one that you (and any other members of your household) clean your teeth too.
Establishing good brushing habits as part of your little one’s daily routine will ensure they have the best chance of continuing the habit as they get older, as well as keeping that smile healthy! While little ones love to do things for themselves, they don’t actually have the co-ordination to brush their own teeth well enough until they are about around 6 years old. Dentists recommend that you should brush your child’s teeth until they at least 4 years old and then supervise brushing and toothpaste until they are 6 to 8 years old. One of the best things you can do is to set a good example: your child will learn about good oral hygiene just by watching you and the other members of your family brushing and flossing your own teeth.
If you find that your little one just wants to chew their brush, then it might be worth grabbing yourself a Chewable Toothbrush. You can smear a little toothpaste on the Chewable and let your toddler do some of the work! You can then go over your toddler’s teeth afterwards with a toothbrush and finish the job.
- It’s not uncommon for your toddler to want to assert their independence, which can make brushing difficult. Don’t worry - this is perfectly normal and you’re not alone! Here are some things to try: Have two toothbrushes handy so you can give your toddler a choice. They will love the feeling of being in charge! Let your toddler see you and any other members of your household cleaning your teeth
- Let your little one brush their favourite toy’s ‘teeth’ first or let them ‘help’ you to brush your teeth. Just be careful not to share toothbrushes with them.
- Don’t forget to shower them with praise when brushing goes well Try making up a silly tooth brushing song or dance, or check out some of the funny videos online.
- If your munchkin enjoys munching on their brush, try the Chewable Toothbrush - it's designed to help clean teeth and gums as it is chewed and also acts like a teether. Then you can go in and finish the job with a toothbrush afterwards.
There are lots of different toothbrushes on the market. The important thing to remember is that toddler toothbrushes need to have soft bristles that are gentle on little gums. Here’s a few options for you to consider:
- Our FirstBrush has a small head and a long handle, to help you gently clean inside a little mouth.
- If your baby has quite a few teeth already then the FlossBrush is ideal - it has longer bristles so can clean in between teeth.
- You could also opt for an electric toothbrush - this has a few advantages over a manual and can sometimes persuade an unwilling baby that tooth brushing can be fun! The BabySonic has a small brush head for babies and a larger one for when they are older. It has a two minute timer, so you know exactly how long to brush for, along with a light so that you can check you’re getting to all your toddler’s teeth.
It’s easy to forget to replace your family’s toothbrushes when there’s a million other things to do to keep a household running. However, it’s important to remember that toothbrushes can spread infection, so here are our golden rules for keeping those brushes at their best.
- Replace your toddler’s toothbrush after they are ill with a cold, flu, a tummy bug or after any mouth infections (and yours if you are ill too!).
- Don’t forget to keep an eye on your family’s toothbrushes and replace them when bristles start to fray, or least every 2 - 3 months
- Try to keep everyone’s toothbrushes in a clean, dry, airy place so that they can dry out between uses. Ideally the toothbrush heads shouldn’t touch each other.
Electric toothbrushes can be a great option for a stubborn toddler as they can introduce some fun into the toothbrushing routine. Brush-Baby electric brushes have lights and a 2 minute timer, so you know exactly how long you have to brush for. Don’t forget to replace toothbrush heads when bristles start to fray, or least every 2 - 3 months.
If you’re letting your little one ‘help’ you to brush your teeth to beat the brushing battle, be careful not to actually share toothbrushes with each other, as toothbrushes can easily spread infection.
Choosing the right toothpaste for your child’s baby teeth is mainly about choosing the right amount of fluoride in the toothpaste, but it’s also about experimenting with different flavours. Little taste buds can often find minty flavours quite strong. Fluoride is found naturally in food and water and the amount of fluoride differs depending on where you live. It helps to prevent tooth decay by hardening the enamel on the tooth’s surface. However, eating or drinking too much fluoride can cause permanent stains on the developing adult teeth, so it’s important to encourage your little one to spit out their toothpaste after brushing, instead of swallowing. Choose a toothpaste with no more than 1000 parts per million Fluoride until your little one turns 3.
Firstly, ensure that your little one’s toothpaste contains the right amount of fluoride for their age. You only need to use a tiny smear of toothpaste for your toddler, until they are 3 years old and then you can use a pea-sized amount. Remember to put the toothpaste on your toddler’s toothbrush yourself until your child can do it properly and as with all bathroom products, keep toothpaste tubes out of the reach of little hands.
Minty flavours can actually be quite strong for little taste buds, so it’s worth experimenting with different flavour toothpastes if your toddler isn’t keen. Our gentle Applemint toothpaste is often a big hit with small mouths.
Until your little one turns 3, you should be choosing toothpaste with no more than 1000 parts per million Fluoride and only using a smear of toothpaste on their toothbrush.
Toddler Teething - signs, phases and remedies
Some babies start teething as early as 3 months, but most will see their first tooth emerging between 6 and 9 months old. You will notice that baby teeth tend to pop up in cute little pairs – one on the right and one on the left. The lower two front teeth usually appear first, followed by the upper ones, forming the most adorable toothy grin! By their first birthday, your baby should have around 8 teeth. By the time they are 2&1/2 - 3 years old they will usually they will have all 20 baby teeth. Click here to see the table to show you when to expect different baby teeth.
When the molars (back teeth) pop through, it can be especially uncomfortable because they are larger teeth. Don’t forget that the majority of pain during teething is generally due to inflammation and infection of the gum tissue – not the tooth! This can be caused by bacteria and food getting caught in tiny gum flaps around the tooth as it pops through.
It’s actually a myth that teeth cut through gums as they emerge. When a new baby tooth pops up, special chemicals are released that cause the gums to separate and allow the tooth through. Food or bacteria can get stuck around new teeth popping up and this is what can cause inflammation and discomfort. Try to keep your little one’s gums and any teeth they have nice and clean by brushing twice a day, as a clean mouth can help to prevent teething pain.
Your baby is unique, just like you, so it’s worth trying a few different teething remedies in order to find out what does the trick for them. Here are some tips to try:
- Try to keep your little one’s gums and any teeth they have nice and clean - brush twice a day and use DentalWipes on gums. This will ensure no food or bacteria gets stuck around new teeth popping up (which can cause infection)
- Try a bit of barrier cream on your baby’s chin and cheeks to prevent chaffing from all that dribble.
- Teethers and wipes cooled in the fridge (never the freezer!) will be nice and soothing for your baby’s gums. Teething gels, creams or powder can numb sore gums, or for the really tough times you can also give your baby age-appropriate painkillers such as baby paracetamol or ibuprofen. Check with your Health Visitor or on the NHS website for how much you can give them. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/childrens-health/can-i-give-my-child-painkillers/
- Distraction distraction distraction! Comforting or playing with your baby can help to distract them from discomfort and pain. Sing, dance, listen to music or go for a walk, but maybe not all the the same time!
Sometimes baby teeth start to come through, a little bleeding may happen under the skin. This can cause a small blood blister or bruise to appear on your baby’s gum. No treatment is usually necessary as it will disappear when the tooth comes through. However, if your baby or toddler gets a teething blister and it lasts for more than a month without any sign of a new baby tooth, pop along to the dentist for a check-up.
Some little ones rub their gums together or "grind their teeth" as their new baby teeth grow and start to emerge. Rubbing their gums or teeth together can relieve some of the discomfort caused by teething. It is also a little one’s way of feeling the changes that are occurring in his or her mouth, especially as the molars emerge. In general, teeth grinding when your little one is teething and they should stop when all their baby teeth have come through. As always, talk to your dentist if you are worried.
Tooth-friendly snacks and drinks
Try to avoid giving your toddler a bottle of formula, milk or fruit juice to go to sleep with or to suck on for a long time during the day, as all of these drinks contain sugars. Also, encourage your little one to slurp their nightly milk before you brush their teeth, as opposed to afterwards.
It’s important to ensure your toddler is drinking particularly sugary drinks like fruit juice or milk from an open cup or sippy cup, so that they aren’t tempted to slurp them for a long period of time. You want to avoid sugary drinks spending a lot of time around little teeth if you can, as this can cause tooth decay.
If your toddler is hungry between meals, it can be tough to know what to give them that won’t harm their teeth, especially when they are teething and just want comfort food! Here are some great low or no-sugar ideas for your hungry munchkin to munch on:
- Calcium-rich foods like yoghurt, milk and cheese. These are also essential for your little one to build strong teeth, nails and bones. - Make your own ice lolly by popping a stick into a no-added-sugar fromage frais and freezing it for an hour. A lovely soothing treat for sore gums!
- Look out for low/no added sugar biscuits or try savoury low-salt crackers or rice cakes.
- Raw fruit and veg like carrot, celery, cucumber and apple can help ease the irritation of sore gums, especially when chilled, and are also a great source of fibre. Don’t forget if your toddler is unwell and you are giving them age-appropriate medicine, look out for the sugar-free option. Sugar will be listed on the ingredients and can also be referred to as glucose, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, honey, hydrolyzed starch, or syrup.
Try to avoid sugary drinks altogether, but if you do allow them try to keep this to mealtimes
- If your little one is a fan of fruit juice, try diluting it with water - they’ll never know!
- Aim to swap out fruit juice or milk for water between meals - it’s free, hydrating, sugar-free and contains fluoride which will help strengthen your little one’s pearly whites
Dummies and thumb sucking
Lots of babies and toddlers like to suck a dummy or their thumb as it has a soothing effect, particularly when they are drifting off to sleep. Most kids will stop sucking their thumb naturally by about 4 years old - it’s only after this point that you might need to think about weaning them off, as it could effect their teeth. With a dummy, it’s important to try to wean your little one off earlier than that if you can.
- To start with, try just restricting thumb- or dummy-sucking to night time or nap times only. Then you can eventually work towards cutting down at these times too. - You could start a progress chart with stickers for every day they go without. Then reward your munchkin with a new toy or trip to their favourite place at the end of the week.
- Keep track of when your child wants to suck their dummy or thumb - if they are tired, hungry or anxious, it’s worth try to find other ways to alleviate these or distract them at these times.
- If you’re going away on holiday, you could use it as an opportunity to leave their dummy at home. You’ll have lots to distract your little one whilst you’re away and by the time you’re home they might have forgotten all about it!
- You could try transitioning them to something else like a teddy or favourite soft toy for comfort.
- Try to remain patient and understanding - it’s a big transition for them after all.
- Ask your dentist to explain to your little one that it’s time to stop and why they should - it’s amazing what a few words from an expert can do!
Visting the Dentist
Dentists recommend taking your baby to the dentist before they turn 1, whether they’ve had any baby teeth come through or not. After that, you can take them as often as your dentist recommends. Click here for more information on the Dental Check by 1 campaign: https://dentalcheckbyone.co.uk
During these visits your dentist will check your child's mouth and teeth and will diagnose any problems. Getting your child used to going to the Dentist will help them to feel relaxed and know that there’s nothing to fear. Your little one will probably love exploring a new place and being buzzed up and down in the Dentist’s chair! You can expect the first appointment to be short and fairly informal, so try not to worry. Your NHS dental treatment in the UK is free while you are pregnant and for the first year after your baby is born. All you need to do is show your dentist your MatB1 certificate or NHS Prescription Maternity Exemption Certificate. To find an NHS dentist in your area, go www.bda-findadentist.org.uk, or ring NHS Direct on 0845 4647
Depending on your baby’s age and how happy they are to say ‘Ah’, you may be asked to hold them while the Dentist takes a little look around their mouth to check for decay and look at their gums, jaw, and bite. The Dentist or the hygienist may clean your child’s teeth if they think it’s needed. They will talk to you about good oral hygiene habits and give you the chance to ask any questions you may have about toddler teething, thumb sucking or tooth-friendly foods. Scribble down any questions you have beforehand and take them to the appointment with you so you don’t forget.
It’s important to take your little one to the dentist as part of regular check-ups, not just when there is something wrong. Getting your child used to going to the dentist regularly will help them to feel relaxed when they visit in the future. Don’t forget to take your child to the dentist when you have a check-up too. This will help them get used to the sights, smells and sounds of the dental practice and to feel more comfortable about going to the dentist in general. If you are worried, try taking one of their favourite books or toys to make them feel more comfortable.
Some children who suffer with asthma need to use an inhaler. However, many of the powders in puffers are acidic and can unfortunately erode tooth enamel. If your child uses an inhaler, it’s worth teaching them to rinse with water after using each use, to help prevent future problems with their teeth. Cleaning their teeth with suitable fluoride toothpaste will also help to protect their teeth because the fluoride strengthens tooth enamel. Don’t forget to tell your dentist if your child uses an inhaler and ensure you take them for regular check-ups.
Despite our best efforts as parents, children have a knack of finding ways to bump their heads, scrape their knees and shut their fingers in things! Sometimes they can even find ways to chip a tooth, knock one out or drive a tooth back up into their gum. Here’s what to do if you ever face a tooth-related emergency:
- Try not to panic! Whilst you’re comforting your little one, take a nice deep breath before you take action.
- If their mouth is bleeding, stem the flow with a clean moist flannel.
- If a baby tooth has been knocked out, don’t put it back into the socket as this could block the way for the adult tooth underneath.
- Call the dentist straightaway and make an emergency appointment - they will be able to assess what damage has been done and advise on the best treatment for your child.
- Try not to feel guilty - some children are more accident-prone than others, but remember accidents can happen to any one of us!
The first thing is to pop to the dentist for a check up. Your dentist will be able to identify whether these white marks are due to decay or something else. They can be due to the way the minerals in the tooth have been lain down as the tooth developed. As always, ensure you are brushing your little one’s teeth twice a day with age-appropriate fluoride toothpaste.