Dental Care

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How Do I Care for My Baby's Teeth?

My 5-month-old daughter is teething, but she hasn't gotten her first tooth yet. How should I care for her teeth when they come in?
- Nicole

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that babies start seeing a dentist by their first birthday. But good dental care starts before a child's first tooth comes in. Running a damp washcloth over a baby's gums daily will help clear away harmful bacteria.

Parents can brush kids' teeth as they come in with an infant toothbrush, using water with just a smear of toothpaste until about age 2. After age 2, most kids can spit while brushing. Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, with supervision, until around age 5.

Many parents are surprised to learn that even babies can develop tooth decay if good feeding habits aren't practiced. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle might be convenient, but it can harm the baby's teeth. When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby's teeth for hours, they can eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth. Pocked, pitted, or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Severe cases result in cavities and the need to pull all of the front teeth until the permanent ones grow in.

Never let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth, and set specific times for drinking because sucking on a bottle throughout the day can be equally damaging to young teeth.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2012

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