Take Care of Your Baby’s Pearlies

Tooth decay is declining everywhere except among preschoolers.

You won’t see a newborn’s teeth, but enamel and dentin are already forming in the jaw. Teething is just months away. Use a clean dry wash cloth to wipe baby’s gums after every feeding and continue as teeth begin to emerge.

Central incisors arrive first, at nine to ten months, with lateral incisors about two months later. Once teeth appear, use a soft toothbrush on them twice daily. Encourage the child to develop the habit of taking time with the task.

Choose fluoridated toothpaste—a tiny, pea-size squeeze is enough—and push it down into the bristles so kids won’t lick it off.

Begin dental exams before the child’s first birthday, and continue every six months.

This allows us to fix problems early.

First molars usually arrive at 15-16 months, cuspids (canines) at 18-19 months, and second molars shortly after a child’s second birthday. During this phase we can apply sealants to the teeth, which help to ward off decay.

When kids are old enough to write their name, teach them how to brush—and continue the habit of brushing after every meal.

Encourage a taste for fresh veggies and fruits, and allow only sugar-free gum.

If straightening is needed, starting while some of the baby teeth are still in helps to create a sound framework for permanent teeth when they arrive.

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