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Caring for a Young Child's Teeth

What is the best way to take care of a young child's teeth?

Birth to 12 months

  • Good dental habits should begin before the first tooth appears. After feedings, gently brush your baby’s gums using water on a baby toothbrush that has soft bristles. Or wipe them with a clean washcloth.
  • Ask about fluoride. After the first tooth appears, ask your child’s doctor if your baby is getting enough fluoride. Many experts
    recommend using a fluoride-free toothpaste before the age of 2, but check with your child’s doctor or dentist first.
  • Schedule your baby’s well-child visits. During these visits your child’s doctor will check your baby’s mouth.
  • Schedule a dental checkup. If your baby is at high risk for tooth decay, your child’s doctor will recommend that your baby see a dentist.

12 to 24 months

  • Brush! Brush your child’s teeth 2 times a day using water on a baby toothbrush that has soft bristles. The best times are after breakfast and before bed.
  • Limit juice. Make sure your child doesn’t drink more than 1 small cup of juice each day and only at mealtimes.
  • Consult with your child’s dentist or doctor about sucking habits. Sucking too strongly on a pacifier, a thumb, or fingers can affect the shape of the mouth and how the top and bottom teeth line up. This is called your child’s “bite.” Ask your child’s dentist or doctor to help you look for changes in your child’s bite and how to help your child ease out of his sucking habit.
  • Schedule a dental checkup. Take your child for a dental checkup if he has not had one.

24 months

  • Brush! Help your child brush her teeth 2 times a day with a child-sized toothbrush that has soft bristles. There are brushes designed to address the different needs of children at all ages, ensuring that you can select a toothbrush that is appropriate for your child.
    Encourage her to brush her teeth on her own. However, to make sure your child’s teeth are clean, you should brush them again. If your child doesn’t want her teeth brushed, it may help to turn it into a game. For example, the toothbrush can look upstairs and downstairs in the mouth for missing treasure in the teeth.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste. You can start using fluoride toothpaste, which helps prevent cavities. Teach your child not to swallow it. Use a pea-sized amount or less and smear the paste into the bristles. Swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can make white or brown spots on your child’s adult teeth. If your child doesn’t like the taste of the toothpaste, try another flavor or use plain water.
  • Floss. You can begin flossing your child’s teeth as soon as 2 teeth touch each other. But not all children need their teeth flossed at this age, so check with your dentist first.
  • Schedule a dental checkup. Take your child for a dental checkup at least once a year.
Last Updated
5/5/2015
Source
First Steps to a Healthy Smile (Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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