• drToothChampion

Cleaning mouth 101

Hi parents, do you know that you should start cleaning your child’s mouth even before the first tooth erupts? Humans are creatures of habits and we want our children to pick up good habits right from the beginning. You should start cleaning your baby’s mouth during infancy. You can start once you have settled into the routine of looking after your infant (more for first-time parents when it can be a handful at the beginning). Use a clean, damp cloth and wipe the cheeks, gums and tongue gently. Do this twice a day – once in the morning and another at night before bedtime. Any clean towel may do but you can also buy dental wipes if you fancy.

Example of commercial dental wipes. This is convenient for wiping the baby's gums, tongue and cheeks.

You may ask though “What if my child wakes up to drink milk in the middle of the night?” Most babies will wake up in the middle of the night for feeds a few times. But most parents will not have the energy to clean the mouth after each feed in the middle of the night. It would be great if you could but it can be tough to keep it up. You should keep to cleaning the mouth twice a day but more often if you wish to. Once the first tooth erupts, regular toothbrushing becomes very important.

Use a bristled brush to clean the teeth. Bristled brush is the most effective in removing plaque. Plaque is the sticky film coating that forms on the surface of the tooth. Other oral brushing aids like finger and silicone brushes are less effective but you can use them at the beginning when transiting the child from cloth to a bristled brush. There are toothbrush training sets to get the infant used to the different oral aids in the mouth. Small head toothbrushes are the most useful in brushing in a small mouth. Mechanical removal of plaque is the best way to ensure the teeth are clean after a meal. Getting the child to drink water after milk feeds is not be helpful in removing plaque or food debris. Plaque on the teeth surface creates an environment for bacteria to initiate dental decay. The most common dental problem in children is dental decay (also known as dental caries or cavities). Dental decay can start once the first tooth erupts in the mouth. So it is important to start good oral cleaning habits early.

Sample of toothbrush training set from Pigeon for different stages. I would advise the use of bristled brush (far right) for brushing the moment the first tooth erupts.

Getting the right position…

Positioning your infant/toddler properly for brushing is important as it will help you do a decent job. Get your child to lie down flat on a mat while you sit at the top of his/her head. This allows you to look at his/her mouth like how a dentist would be looking at the patient’s mouth (see video links below). This gives you a good view of the mouth and also stability of the child’s head while brushing. For infants, there is usually less resistance as they are not strong. But when they are at the toddler stage, you will find more struggling during brushing. Don’t be alarmed…it’s normal that most children will fret having their mouth being fiddled with. You are not alone...most young children are not very cooperative with toothbrushing. So do expect some movement, crying, tantrums. But remember, you are trying to instill a habit for your child so you must win the battle. Overtime, your child will accept brushing as a routine and struggle less. Use your thighs and legs to secure the arms and legs down to prevent the toddler from distracting you. Here are some great videos to demonstrate brushing teeth for toddlers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOhLI_UkpXk (all video credit to Smoky Mountain Pediatric Dentistry)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cgPeUc4t3k (all video credit to Sweet Tooth Children's Dentistry)

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