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Caring for Your Toddler's Teeth

What's the point of taking good care of "baby teeth"? After all, they're only going to fall out anyway, right? True, but baby teeth do matter. They determine the placement and spacing of adult teeth and help to develop the jaw and a proper bite. So caring for your child's baby teeth is important. Early tooth decay can spread under the gums to the bone, making the bone unable to support adult teeth properly. In addition, early care of the teeth and gums will help form good habits that will last a lifetime.

One of the best things you can do to take care of your toddler's teeth is to watch his diet. Encourage your child to drink plenty of milk and eat milk products, because they are rich in both calcium and vitamin D, which will help in the formation of strong and healthy teeth (and bones).

Also, limit the eating of sugar and sweets, which contribute strongly to tooth decay. Because water has no sugar, it is better for his teeth than juice. Also water may help wash out other foods from the teeth. So although drinking juice in moderation is fine, make a point to encourage your toddler to drink water, too—especially before bedtime. The sugar you give your toddler after brushing and before bed—in juice or, even worse, in formula—will remain on his teeth until the next day's first brushing.

You don't really need to begin brushing your child's teeth until he is about 18 months old. (And you won't need to take him to a dentist until he is two.) But you do need to clean his new teeth. Check your toddler's mouth for any food stuck between his teeth and try to remove it. Then just gently rub your baby's teeth and gums with a washcloth or a small square of damp gauze to get them clean. Make sure to clean the gums as well as the teeth. If not removed, food particles and bacteria will cause plaque and decay.

Although you don't need to brush your child's teeth before 18 months, you may want to give your baby a soft toothbrush and let him watch you while you brush your teeth. Turn it into a game. See how well your baby can imitate you. Don't worry about his brushing technique at this stage. What's important is that your baby familiarizes himself with the toothbrush.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Preschooler and Toddler, Too © 1997 by Keith M. Boyd, M.D., and 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 Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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