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Even though these first teeth will fall out, it's important to take good care of them. In fact, most experts recommend that parents begin a mouth-cleaning regimen even before baby teeth erupt. Wiping a baby's toothless gums with a wet washcloth after feedings removes surface bacteria that can cause plaque. Once those first teeth have come in, switch to a soft toothbrush, which you can use on both the teeth and the gums. When your child turns 2, you can add a pea-size dab of fluoridated baby toothpaste. It's fine just to use water until then, but if your drinking water contains no fluoride, ask your pediatrician whether you need a supplement (the mineral helps strengthen teeth enamel and prevent decay). According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your baby should have his first dental checkup by age 1, just to make sure his teeth are coming in properly. --Janine Musick
Originally published in the September 2000 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009.
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.