The right dental care for babies and toddlers from the first milk tooth

Dental Care

Parents must devote sufficient attention right from their child's first baby tooth to ensure that the child's teeth develop optimally. By doing so, they lay the foundation for long-term dental health.

Babies get their first milk teeth at the age of about six months.
Milk teeth help the child to chew and talk properly.
Yet care for these first teeth is often neglected or put off until it is too late. Since these teeth fall out later anyway, parents are often not sufficiently aware that healthy baby teeth fulfil another important function: they serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth that follow. However, if they have to be pulled because of tooth decay, they can no longer perform their function. The new, permanent tooth will have insufficient space for healthy growth, as the surrounding teeth push into the resulting gap. This impairs tooth development, which can lead to further problems (such as misalignment and speech disorders), which can require (avoidable) complex treatment.

Babies discover much of their environment using their mouth and tongue – a fact which can be used for the first contact with the toothbrush and which will make brushing teeth much easier later on.
It is best for parents to let their baby have a playful interaction with the toothbrush (not yet with toothpaste) before the first milk tooth appears, so that they can get used to it. Once the first baby tooth breaks through, it should be brushed once a day with a gentle toothbrush and about a pea-sized amount of children’s toothpaste, preferably before bedtime.
As soon as the first molar breaks through or from the second birthday at the latest, milk teeth should be brushed twice a day (after eating). At this age, the toddler’s imitation instinct is also pronounced enough for them to do some initial brushing themselves, always under parental supervision, of course. However, toddlers do not have sufficiently developed fine motor skills, so parents should then finish brushing (after praising and commending their child, of course!) – and continue this practice until the child goes to school.

This requires patience and consistency, but soon becomes a habit and a matter of course for both parents and child. It also means independent brushing is rarely a problem later on.

The right toothpaste

As small children often swallow a little of the toothpaste and aren’t yet able to spit it out completely, you should only use children’s toothpaste for milk teeth. Children’s toothpaste has a lower fluoride concentration than adult toothpaste. Only as of the age of six or the appearance of the first permanent tooth, children need a toothpaste with a higher fluoride concentration to protect the still immature tooth enamel of these new teeth. Here, it is recommended to use junior toothpaste, as it typically has a more pleasant taste for children.

You can find more information at e.g.: SSO (Swiss Dental Association) and ZZM (Center of Dental Medicine of the University of Zurich).