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How do I look after my baby’s teeth?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

You may think that you don’t need to worry about your baby’s teeth until they have a full set of pearly whites, but it’s important to start early to set the foundation and tone. You may be surprised to know that you can begin cleaning your baby’s gums twice a day from birth.

When should I start cleaning my baby's gums?

It’s recommended to start at a young age to clean your baby’s gums after feeding. This helps to establish a good oral environment ahead of the appearance of the baby’s first tooth. A toothbrush is not necessary when they have no teeth. Instead, a clean damp cloth can be used, or even a soft silicone finger brush is a good place to start, and they might enjoy the experience. 

When should I start brushing my baby's teeth?

You can start to brush their first tooth from the moment it comes through. It might even soothe if they’re teething, although they’re likely to bite down. It’s fine to use a clean damp washcloth or finger brush to gently wipe the tooth or teeth and tongue after meals and at bedtime.

Most manufacturers label children’s toothbrushes according to age, so pick the most suitable and ensure you change it if the bristles become bent. Bamboo toothbrushes can also offer a soft and environmentally friendly option.

It’s nice to start that routine from a young age so it’s well established by childhood. Make it a fun and rewarding experience, don’t worry too much about technique at the start; it’s more to get them in the routine.

Aim to brush twice daily and no more than three times daily.

When can I use fluoride toothpaste?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that’s essential to prevent tooth decay. It’s found naturally in drinking water and is considered so important that it’s added to water in areas with lower levels to make protection consistent throughout the US. It’s added to toothpaste for the same reason, but excessive fluoride can damage tooth enamel in the growing milk teeth of babies and young children.

When your baby has a first tooth, fluoride toothpaste is ok, but use no more than a smidge on the brush. Encourage them to spit the toothpaste out each time, but if the baby swallows it instead, it’s usually such a small amount of fluoride that this shouldn’t cause any harm.

What’s the difference between the toothpastes?

Most manufacturers label toothpaste as suitable for particular ages, so that they contain a safe amount of fluoride in them. They are also likely to only have a subtle flavor, as most babies and children don’t like the zingy mint taste we like as adults.

By age 3 years, they can have a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Aquafresh Milk Teeth is a fluoride and calcium toothpaste for babies up to 3 years old, and Aquafresh Little Teeth takes them from 3 to 5 years old, with slightly more fluoride and more targeted at sugars they’ve probably started eating. Still, there are a number of options in the pharmacy or supermarket.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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