Baby Teeth Basics

Throughout your child's second year, all of his baby teeth will come in. We tell you how to care for them and when it's time to see a dentist.

Your biggest concern about your child's dental health during her first year of life was probably about when and how often her teeth would appear. Teething continues during the second year-the eight or so teeth she probably has on her first birthday will be joined during this year by most of her remaining "baby" teeth. The remaining lower incisors and the four first molars usually appear during the first half of the second year. The canine teeth and the second molars usually make their appearance around the time of your child's second birthday.

As in the first year, teething may be associated with drooling, pain, and mild congestion. Offer your child something cold, smooth, and hard to chew, such as a teething ring (make sure pieces can't be bitten off and accidentally ingested or inhaled). Don't use over-the-counter teething pain medications or folk remedies (like rubbing whiskey on your baby's gums) without checking with your pediatrician.

In this year, your primary concern about your child's teeth is likely to be how best to care for them. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child's first visit to a dentist be scheduled at 6 months. Others, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, feel that a dental visit at age 3 is early enough, as long as your child's pediatrician checks his teeth regularly.

There is less debate about when to begin cleaning your child's teeth. By 1, he should be accustomed to having his teeth wiped with a square of gauze or brushed with a baby toothbrush twice a day. Having the child stand or sit in front of you, facing away from you, may make it easier for you to brush his teeth. Flossing can begin as soon as his back molars are in. Fluoridated toothpaste, however, should be reserved for after age 2 -younger children tend to swallow it, and toothpaste is not meant to be ingested. If you would like to use toothpaste, try a nonfluoridated, ingestible toothpaste specifically designed for babies and use only a pea-size drop. If the water in your community is not fluoridated, your pediatrician can recommend vitamins with fluoride or fluoride drops or rinses to help protect tiny teeth.

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