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Dental Care for Your Baby


Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby's first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your son or daughter will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Caring for Gums

Even before your baby's first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby's gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.

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Baby's First Tooth

When that first tooth makes an entrance, it's time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.

At this stage or if they are not proficient at spitting, parents should brush the tooth or teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush using a smear or grain of rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. The fluoride is absorbed into the teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to fractures and decay. During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.

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Brushing with Toothpaste

At the eruption of the first tooth, fluoridated toothpaste is recommended by the AAPD. For children under 2, or if they are not proficient at spittin, parents should brush the tooth or teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush using a smear of grain of rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Always have your child spit out toothpaste after brushing. Refrain from rinsing afterwards with water, as this would wash away the beneficial fluoride. You should brush your child’s teeth for him until he is ready to take on that responsibility himself, which usually happens by age nine or ten years old.

If you are concerned about your child swallowing toothpaste, you can use a fluoride free toothpaste. The doctor will discuss options, cover brushing positions, and your child’s decay risk at their appointment.

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: Guidelines on Fluoride Therapy

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Avoiding Cavities

Don't give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.

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First Visit to the Dentist

It's recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth's eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems. We'll look for any signs of early problems with your baby's oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one's teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.

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Setting a Good Example

As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You'll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.) Most children don't have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they're about six or seven, so you'll have to do that part of the job. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!