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Caring for Your Baby's Teeth

Unless your baby develops some problem with her teeth, you won't need to take her on her first visit to a dentist until she is two or three years old. But just because she isn't yet seeing a dentist doesn't mean that you should neglect dental care.

Caring properly for baby teeth is important. Your child's baby teeth determine where her adult teeth will grow in. If your child develops tooth decay and it spreads under the gums to the bone, the damage might make them unable to support adult teeth properly. Tooth decay in baby teeth can also create spacing problems for the adult teeth to come.

Q-tip

Encourage your baby to drink water for the health of her teeth. Water contains no sugar and is therefore better for your baby's teeth than juice. In addition, drinking water helps to wash out other foods that get trapped between her teeth.

You don't need to begin brushing your baby's teeth until about 18 months-when she has about 16 teeth, all in a row, that can easily trap food between them. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything to care for your baby's teeth.

Start brushing your baby's teeth if you like, but don't be surprised if she resists the proper use of a toothbrush, preferring instead to bite down on it. Because your baby has few teeth and they're all up front, rubbing a washcloth or a small square of damp gauze gently over her first teeth is easier than using a toothbrush. Clean the gums too in order to remove food particles and bacteria that can cause plaque. Look out for any food that might get stuck between her teeth and remove it if possible.

As for fluoride, your pediatrician may prescribe it in liquid vitamins (if the amount in your local water supply is inadequate), but you don't need to use a fluoride toothpaste just yet (although it won't hurt to use a tiny dab to flavor the gauze or brush).

Although brushing is unnecessary, you may want to give your baby her own toothbrush just to familiarize her with something she'll have to get used to a year from now. Choose one that has very soft bristles and let your child hold onto it herself. Then let her watch you when you brush your teeth. With an older infant, you can even turn this ritual into a game: You brush and your baby imitates you. Don't worry about your baby's brushing technique at this point. Just have fun and let your baby familiarize herself with the toothbrush.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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