Dental Care for Your Baby

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When should dental care start?

Proper dental care begins before a baby’s first tooth appears. Just because you can’t see the teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.

Running a damp washcloth over a baby’s gums daily will help clear away harmful bacteria. Parents can brush kids’ teeth with an infant toothbrush as the teeth come in, using water with just a smear of toothpaste until about age 2.

Around age 2, most kids can spit while brushing. Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, with supervision, until around age 5.

Even babies can develop tooth decay if good feeding habits aren’t practiced. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle might be convenient, but can harm the baby’s teeth. When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby’s teeth for hours, they can eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth. Pocked, pitted or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Severe cases result in cavities and the need to pull the front teeth.

Parents and child-care providers should help young kids set specific times for drinking each day, because sucking on a bottle throughout the day can be equally damaging to young teeth.

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Pediatric dentists

Consider taking your child to a dentist who specializes in treating kids. Pediatric dentists are trained to handle the wide range of issues associated with kids’ dental health. They also know when to refer you to a different type of specialist, such as an orthodontist to correct an overbite or an oral surgeon for jaw realignment.

A pediatric dentist’s primary goals are prevention (heading off potential problems before they occur) and maintenance (using routine checkups and proper daily care to keep teeth and gums healthy).

© 1995-2013 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.

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