From the very first tooth, your baby will benefit from proper dental care.
Your baby's primary teeth may be only a temporary tool for eating, to be replaced during the early school years by his permanent teeth set. But it's no less important to take good care of them now and to establish the habits that will lead him toward a lifetime of good dental health. Decayed or lost baby teeth can interfere with good nutrition and speech development, and by not holding a proper place for permanent teeth, they can make the permanent ones come in crooked.
Cleaning baby's gums after feedings, which helps fight bacterial growth and promotes good oral health, long before baby's first teeth start to appear. Rather than cleaning baby's gums with a toothbrush, try a soft, damp cloth, or even a soft rubber or silicone finger brush, both gentle options with a nubby texture babies tend to love.
Tooth brushing can begin as soon as baby's first tooth pokes through the gums. Use a clean, damp washcloth, a gauze pad, or a finger brush to gently wipe clean the first teeth and the front of the tongue, after meals and at bedtime. Toothbrushes moistened with water and no more than a rice-grain size smear of fluoride toothpaste: can also be used, but they should be very soft and with no more than three rows of bristles (a pediatric dentist or your pharmacist can help you find the finger brushes and a proper baby toothbrush). Toss any toothbrushes that have become rough at the edges (or that are more than two to four months old, because nasty mouth bacteria can begin to build up).
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste starting with baby’s first tooth, rather than waiting until age 2 as was previously recommended. Use a rice-grain-sized smear of toothpaste for your baby or toddler, graduating to a pea-sized dollop by age 3. And don't worry if your baby swallows some of the toothpaste (as she almost certainly will) — in such a small quantity, it won't cause any damage to the teeth. Starting in the second year, you can teach your toddler to spit after brushing.
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