Caring for Your Baby's Mouth

The best time to learn about your baby's teeth is before they grow into his mouth. At birth, the baby's teeth are completely formed inside the gums. His first set of teeth are important, because he needs them to chew and to learn to talk. They will also affect whether or not the permanent teeth grow in properly. You, with your dentist's help--can help your baby to have a healthy smile.

Mouth Care

Even before the teeth come in, clean the gums, tongue, and soft tissues of your baby's mouth every day with a soft, wet washcloth wrapped around your finger. After the baby's teeth come in, use a small, soft toothbrush. Toothpaste is not necessary, but a small amount with fluoride can provide additional protection. It is up to you to protect your baby's smile until you can teach him to brush his own teeth.

Diet and Dental Health

As soon as your child gets teeth, he can get cavities. Cavities can cause baby teeth to fall out early. When this happens, your child may experience crooked permanent teeth, speech difficulties, poor self-image, or loss of appetite.

Never put sugar water, "Kool-Aid," or soft drinks into baby's bottle. When feeding, hold the baby in your arms -- never prop the bottle. A propped bottle will cause the liquid to remain on the baby's teeth. Also, never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice, or sweet liquids. These will promote cavities.

Dental Visits

Dental visits should begin when your baby is one or two years old. The dentist will check for cavities, clean and fluoride the teeth, and teach you how to care for your child's teeth. your dentist will also let you know how often your child should be seen for regular dental checkups.

Fluoride

Fluoride in the drinking water helps the teeth develop while they are still under the gums. It is important to check to be sure the water you and your family drinks has enough fluoride. If you water supply does not have enough fluoride, your dentist may prescribe fluoride tablets or drops. If you are breast-feeding, your child's doctor may also prescribe fluoride drops.