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Just because your little one doesn’t have a lot of teeth yet (or any teeth at all) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about your baby’s dental health. Here are some tips that should keep their mouth in good working order.

Basic dental care for babies

  • Even before you see a child’s first tooth, you should wipe your child’s gums with a clean wet cloth. This provides basic hygiene by clearing away bacteria, and it also gets your child accustomed to having their mouth cleaned, which will be extremely helpful later on.

  • Sippy cups are like cavity incubators, especially when filled with things like juice or soda. Which is why many experts recommend you abandon the sippy cup and bottle at 12 months or fill it only with water after that.

  • Pediatricians and dentists say parents should stop bottle feeding at age 1 in order to prevent tooth decay.

  • When your baby is little, chew gum that contains the anti-cavity sweetener xylitol 2 to 3 times a day. When you do this and then kiss your baby or clean their pacifier with your mouth afterwards, it can actually help prevent their own cavities until about age 6.

Should babies use toothpaste?

It depends on who you ask. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says you should use fluoridated toothpaste with your baby; the American Dental Association says you shouldn’t. This pretty much leaves the decision up to parents and their pediatricians or dentists.

If you do use toothpaste, you shouldn’t use the normal recommended amount (which is a pea-size clump). Instead, apply a super thin coating across the length of the brush. The concern with toothpaste use among very young children is that it’s toxic if swallowed, and young kids can’t be trusted not to swallow. So long as you use a thin amount, even if your baby does swallow, it shouldn’t upset her tummy.

Brushing a toddler’s teeth

Once a child’s teeth come in, parents should start brushing them, using water at first and then a thin amount of toothpaste as they grow. Try laying your child on your lap and brushing her teeth that way, which will allow you to be more effective at getting into all the different areas. This also helps them get accustomed to the dentist’s chair, and can help them relax when it comes time for dentist appointments. At two or three years old, increase the light smear of fluoride toothpaste to a pea-size amount.

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