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Caring for Your Baby's Teeth

By Jill Feilmeier on May 20, 2014 in Kid's Health

Mom walking with toddler

It's never too early to help your little one have a healthy smile – even if that smile only contains a couple of teeth!

A child's first dentist appointment should occur by the time he or she turns 1 year old, or within six months after the first tooth comes in. This visit allows the dentist to make sure teeth are developing properly, establish healthy oral health habits as your child grows, and it also gives you, your child and the dentist an opportunity to get to know one another. It's important for kids to become comfortable with their dentist and the dental office environment – getting them started early is key.

That goes for good dental health, too. Even before teeth erupt, parents should use a clean, damp washcloth to wipe their baby's gums after each feeding to help keep them healthy. Once the first tooth comes in, a baby toothbrush and some water are often all that's needed. If you want the added protection of fluoride toothpaste, just remember that your infant or toddler will swallow almost everything you place on the brush. The American Dental Association recommends using a tiny smear of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. When your child is 2 or 3 years old, you can increase the amount to the size of a small pea. Parents should always supervise how much toothpaste goes on the brush, then either brush for their children or “check” their teeth afterward to go over any missed spots.

Good oral health doesn’t stop at the bathroom sink. Be sure to look at your child's other oral health habits as well. For example, bottles or sippy cups have saved many carpets, but they can do just the opposite to enamel. When the sugars – natural or added – in drinks like juice and milk are left on enamel repeatedly for an extended period of time, they can increase the risk for cavities. Once you pour your child a sugary drink make sure they finish it in a reasonably short period of time – no walking around the house or sitting in a stroller drinking for several hours. If your baby or toddler can't go to sleep without a soothing bottle, substitute water for sugar drinks.