When your child begins teething, it's much too early in life to expect any responsibility for cleaning his or her own teeth. As a parent you'll need to take the initiative and start good habits young by caring for your baby's dental health until the infant is a few years old and you can start to pass the duties along. Here are three ways you can fulfill this responsibility.
1. Cleaning gums
Early on in the teething process when teeth are still working their way up through the gums, none of the baby's teeth will be visible yet. It's still important to keep the gums clean, because plaque can build up even in the absence of visible teeth. If this happens, the teeth will be attacked by plaque as soon as they appear. To get teeth off to a good start, keep the gums clean even before teeth appear. Use a small, wet piece of gauze (or a soft wet washcloth if you can find one small enough) to gently wipe the baby's gums after each meal and before bed.
2. Brushing visible teeth
As soon as teeth start to pop through, they're exposed to bacteria and require regular cleaning. Find a toothbrush designed for babies, because an adult toothbrush is much too large and harsh. Your baby's toothbrush should have a large handle to fit your hand, a tiny head to fit in the baby's mouth, and extremely soft bristles to protect the baby's sensitive gums. Brush each emerging tooth twice daily using a non-fluoride toothpaste so your baby won't be harmed if he or she swallows it.
Teach your baby to let you look inside his or her mouth to inspect the condition of the teeth and gums regularly. You can do this after each brushing, using the excuse of "checking to make sure it's clean in there." Be on the lookout for abnormal gum swelling and discoloration (although a little swelling is normal with teething), tooth discoloration, or any other visible problems. You should also start scheduling dental checkups for the infant around his or her first birthday, so you'll be able to get a professional opinion on your child's dental health.
Use these steps to ensure you keep your child's teeth healthy and clean during infancy and toddlerhood. When your child is a few years old, he or she will be able to start "helping" you with the brushing and eventually will learn to take over the daily dental care routines altogether. Consider speaking to a local dentist, such as Thomas E Rider, DDS and Allison S Reese, DDS, to discuss any questions or concerns you might have.