Scott Cohen (Pediatrician, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center) gives expert video advice on: When should I start brushing my baby's teeth? and more...
What is "teething"?
Teething is actually when the tooth pops through the gum. The gum gets swollen and it hurts, and as a result babies will drool and gnaw on things like their fist or their hand. Every baby starts drooling lots, usually around three months. Thus I think of teething in two phases. There's the "pre-teething" and then there's the "true teething." Because teeth don't usually come in until about six months, give or take a couple, and most babies start drooling around three months, we don't really consider this three months' drooling as teething. So I tell parents: "Yes, from three months on your babies are going to drool, they are going to stick their hands in their mouth, they are going to gnaw on things", and this is that sort of "pre-teething' phase, but it's not true teething. They're doing it because they've found their mouth, they're becoming more oral and it's soothing to them. Then when the tooth pops through the gum (and all you have to do is rub your finger along the gums and you feel the edge of the tooth) that's what true teething is. That's when the gum gets swollen, and they keep drooling even more and gnawing on things because it feels good.
When should I start brushing my baby's teeth?
A good time to get in your baby's mouth is around that three month period, just to massage their gums. This does two things: it gets them used to you going in there so later on it's not a closed-mouth clamping, and it also feels good. We usually just tell families, "Start massaging their gums," around the time where they're sticking things in their mouth and drooling more. And then as the teeth come in, keep doing that. It's not as much about cleaning the teeth as it is massaging and getting the child used to it. After a year of age, now that they've had a bunch of teeth, you can continue massaging with your finger. They make finger guards that you can rub on the teeth. You can use a washcloth or you can get a baby toothbrush, with just plain water or a baby toothpaste. A baby toothpaste really is just a good tasting thing to make it fun for them to brush, to get in there and do it. We recommend that you keep doing it at least twice a day.