Written by I love my Smile Oral Hygienist – Ina Alberts

Taking care of your child’s teeth.  Your questions answered.

Am I supposed to clean my newborn’s mouth?

Yes!  Best is to use a clean piece of gauze, wrap it around your index finger and apply a pea sized amount of Xylitol gel.  Gently rub over gums , tongue, inside of cheeks at least twice daily.  This will make your baby used to the mouth being cleaned and make a future brushing routine easier.

What beverages should be given in a bottle?

Milk or water is best.  Do not add sugar or honey to the content as once the first tooth has erupted it can decay.  Best to not make your child accustomed to sweet tastes.  Let your baby drink at feeding times and don’t allow him or her to go to bed with a bottle and sip milk repeatedly throughout the night.  Fruit juices should also be given with care and when given, finished and not sipped on throughout the day.   This can increase the risk of tooth decay.  Water is best to relief thirst and can be given any time and as many times as wanted throughout the day. 

How often should I replace my child’s toothbrush?

Babies and children often bite down on their toothbrushes which result in quicker bristle wear.  Replace brush as soon as bristles start to flare or at least 3 monthly. 

When is it safe for my child to start using an electric toothbrush?

This will differ from child to child as some children are comfortable with it and others not.  Usually at around 4 years a children’s electric brush can be introduced.


Limit snacking and regular sugar intake to ensure healthy teeth.  Instead, teach your child healthy food choices from an early age.  When snacking, rather snack on cheese, yoghurt, crisps, biltong or fresh fruits rather than sticky sweets, fizzy drinks or chocolates.  It is also better to offer water throughout the day to relieve thirst than cold drinks or juices.

When do I start brushing my child’s teeth?

You need to start brushing as soon as the first tooth makes its appearance.  Use a small, soft toothbrush and wet it with water.  A fluoride free toothpaste or Xylitol gel can be used, but no fluoridated toothpaste at this stage.  Brush twice a day (mornings and at night before your child goes to bed) in small circular motions over teeth and gums.  Also run the brush along gums where no teeth are present and over the surface of the tongue.  This will make your child used to the feeling of a toothbrush in the mouth and make brushing and a dental hygiene routine easier later on.

When do I start using fluoride toothpaste?

As soon as your child will obey and spit out the toothpaste a pea sized amount can be used twice daily or if recommended by a dental professional.  As children grow up and their sugar intake increases toothpaste with a higher fluoride content can be used.  Still use toothpaste appropriate to your child’s age and under adult supervision.

Up to what age should I brush my child’s teeth?

Children should brush teeth under supervision by an adult until 7-8 years of age.  It is a good idea to give your child a turn to brush when old enough, but then to complete the brushing routine by properly brushing your child’s teeth yourself.  As your child gets better at doing it by himself/ herself let them and supervise.

When should my child first dentist/ dental hygienist visit be?

A dentist visit by your child’s first birthday or 6 months after the first tooth erupts is recommended.  This will involve a visual examination.  Your child can visit the dental hygienist for a cleaning as soon as he/ she is willing to sit/ lie down in the dental chair.  Even if your child does not allow us to clean their teeth at the visit, we can disclose/ color plaque and demonstrate effective brushing in his/ her mouth in a fun way.  Gradual and routine exposure to the dental environment will make them more familiar and comfortable.  They will also grow up with better awareness of their oral health and enjoy a healthier smile!

ilovemysmile.co.za | info@ilovemysmile.co.za | 012 348 0665

ilovemysmile.co.za | info@ilovemysmile.co.za | 012 348 0665