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Babying Little Teeth

Even though all primary teeth will eventually fall out, it's important to take care of them. Loss or decay of these teeth can deform the mouth, causing problems when the permanent teeth take their place. Also, your baby will depend on his primary teeth for proper chewing and nutrition, as well as speech and appearance, for many years. Finally, starting regular brushing habits early will make your child more likely to maintain good habits in the future.

Once the first teeth appear, brush them with a soft-bristle infant toothbrush or wipe them with a gauze pad after meals and especially before bed. Using only water (toothpaste shouldn't be introduced until about age 2), move down on top teeth and up on bottom teeth, cleaning inside and outside surfaces. Then, with a gauze pad wrapped around your finger, you can gently clean and massage your baby's gums. This will help prevent the buildup of plaque and create healthier gum pads.

Another important part of good dental hygiene is preventing a disease commonly called baby-bottle mouth, which can lead to the loss of primary teeth. This usually develops in babies who are routinely put to bed with bottles of juice or milk. The sugar in these drinks combines with bacteria in the mouth to decay the teeth. Once her teeth come in, never put your baby down to sleep with a bottle. If she must have a bedtime bottle to relax, fill it with plain water.

Now's a good time to ask your pediatrician to recommend a reliable pediatric dentist. Unless a problem comes up, you needn't schedule a checkup until the baby is between 2 and 3 years old, but some dentists suggest a visit by the first birthday to discuss proper tooth care. Ask your dentist or pediatrician about fluoride or you're breastfeeding exclusively. When taken during infancy, supplements have been shown to reduce the incidence of cavities by more than 50 percent.