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For my identical twin boys, getting teeth was a sloooooooow process. Seriously, seriously slow. And when it did start, as you know, brushing baby teeth isn’t easy. My boys didn’t get their first teeth until they were about 10 or 11 months old, and then the next teeth didn’t pop up until a month later, then another tooth a month after that. I mean, their two-year molars didn’t come in until they were almost 3 years old. Unfortunately, because their tooth eruption ordeal took so long, I was late getting them to the dentist, and also late getting them on a proper teeth brushing plan. I’m not sure if that’s why one of my boys ultimately ended up with a couple of cavities, but I can’t turn back now. So, don’t be like me! Don’t be That Mom! Here, some expert advice on when to start the routine, and the best way to clean your baby’s teeth.

When should you start brushing your baby’s teeth?

“Before your baby’s first tooth erupts, you should get in the habit of wiping their gums with a soft, wet washcloth or baby finger toothbrush, especially after feedings and at bedtime,” suggests Aura Caldera, DDS, a dentist who practices in New Jersey and New York. Then, once her first tooth erupts, parents should begin brushing twice a day.

What’s the best way to brush your baby’s teeth?

Caldera recommends that parents brush their baby’s teeth once after breakfast, and then again before bedtime. “Choose a soft-bristled brush with a small head and a comfortable handle,” Caldera advises. “Use only a tiny rice size smear of toothpaste, and brush gently around your child’s teeth, both front and back.” You’ll want to pay special attention to the back teeth and lower teeth where bacteria often accumulates, she adds.

What kind of toothpaste should you use?

If your baby’s daily vitamin contains fluoride, then opt for a non-fluoridated training toothpaste. Otherwise, Robert Delarosa, DDS, a Baton Rouge-based pediatric dentist and the former president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, recommends using just the rice-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste.

Should you floss your baby’s teeth?

You will also want to begin flossing as soon as any teeth are touching, Delarosa says. He recommends using one of the small claw-like floss contraptions, which makes it easier to maneuver in their little mouths, and is more user-friendly for kids.

What are some ways you can help your baby deal with having her teeth brushed and flossed?

Cleaning your baby’s teeth is a must. Unfortunately, some babies don’t love the experience. “It helps to sing or play a song that they like to keep them distracted,” Delarosa suggests. “Also, if your baby loves the bath, you can brush and floss then while she’s splashing around and playing.”

When should you take your child to see the dentist for the first time?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that babies see a dentist around their first birthday. Not only is it important to have those little chompers checked out, but as Dr. Caldera points out, “Making a dental exam part of their yearly well visits helps to establish a dental home, which is important for preventing cavities, as well as learning about your baby’s growth, development, and oral health.”

Photo: Courtesy of MAM