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Children's Dental Care

1. Protect your baby's teeth with fluoride

Fluoride, generally present in drinking water, protects teeth from tooth decay and helps heal early decay. Ask your dentist or pediatrician if your water has fluoride in it. If it doesn't, talk to your dentist or doctor about giving you a prescription for fluoride drops.

2. Check and clean your baby's teeth

As soon as they come in, clean your baby's teeth at least once a day with a clean, soft cloth or a baby's toothbrush. Best time to clean: right before bedtime. Healthy teeth should be all one color. If you see spots or stains on the teeth, take your baby to your dentist.

At about age 2, most of your child's teeth will be in. Now you can start brushing them with a small drop of fluoride toothpaste. Young children cannot get their teeth clean by themselves. Until they are 7 or 8 years old, you will need to help them brush. Try brushing their teeth first and then letting them finish. And be sure that you put the toothpaste on the brush—use only a pea-sized amount.

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3. Feed your baby healthy food

Choose foods that do not have a lot of sugar in them. Give your child fruits and vegetables instead of candy and cookies.

4. Prevent baby bottle tooth decay

Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle at night or at nap time. If you put your baby to bed with a bottle, fill it only with water. Milk, formula, juices and other sweet drinks such as soda all have sugar in them. Sucking on a bottle filled with liquids that have sugar in them can cause tooth decay. If your baby uses a pacifier, do not dip it in anything sweet like sugar or honey.

Near his first birthday, teach your child to drink from a cup instead of a bottle.

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5. Take your child to the dentist

Ask your dentist when to bring your child in for his first visit. Usually, the dentist will want to see a child by his first birthday.

Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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