When to start?
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, it's a good idea to get into the habit of wiping his/her gums with gauze or a soft wet washcloth, wrapped around your index finger, during bath time. It is not necessary to use toothpaste at this stage.
How should I brush?
Use a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste (a dot the size of a grain of rice is all you need to avoid giving your child too much fluoride). Brush with small, gentle circular movements, concentrating on the area where the teeth and gums meet, both on the inside and the outside, and also the tongue if at all possible. Remember that during teething, your baby's gums will feel tender, so make sure you don't brush too vigorously.
When you've finished, make sure your baby spits out the toothpaste (if they’re old enough to do so), but don't rinse their mouth with lots of water, as it's been found that this can make toothpaste less effective.
Ideally this should be done twice daily, however, don’t worry if you don’t manage to brush much at first. The important thing is to get your baby used to teeth-brushing as part of their daily routine. Sometimes, it can help to turn it into a game, or brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child finish their own.
You should continue to help your child brush their teeth until you’re sure that they can do it well enough themselves, normally by age seven.
Flossing is not necessary until the gaps between the teeth begin to close.
Does my child require a fluoride supplement?
No, there is sufficient fluoride in the toothpaste and water in Harare.
When do I need to start taking my child for dental check-ups?
It's a good idea to take your baby along with you when you have an appointment so they become familiar with the sights, sounds, smells and routine of your dental surgery. They don’t necessarily have to have their teeth checked until they are all through, however.
How else can I protect my baby’s teeth?
The main cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar in your baby's diet, but how often it is eaten or drunk throughout the day. Children who eat sweets every day have nearly twice as much decay as children who eat sweets less often.
It is advisable to restrict sugary foods to mealtimes only and limit them to no more than four times per day. This includes dried fruits, which are high in sugar and stick to teeth. Rather choose savoury snacks!
To really give your child the best chance of healthy teeth, you should also:
- Only offer either breastmilk or formula milk, or cooled, boiled water as drinks for your baby.
- Avoid cordials, fruit juices, flavoured milk and fizzy drinks where possible.
- Once your baby is more than a year old only give him water to drink at night.
- Provide your baby with a healthy, balanced diet. Encourage him to enjoy savoury foods, such as vegetables and pasta, and don't add sugar to his food.
- If you use prepared baby foods, check that they are sugar-free or have no added sugars or sweeteners. Be aware that other sugars, such as lactose, fructose and glucose, are just as harmful to your baby's teeth as sucrose.
- If your baby needs to take medicine, try to choose sugar-free versions where possible.