Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Teeth: How to Care
for Your Child's
How should I take care of my child's
Start before the teeth even come in. You can get
in the habit of wiping your baby's gums with a soft damp cloth after your baby
feeds. When teeth appear, start using a soft children's toothbrush twice a day.
In preschool-age children, use a tiny dab of fluoride toothpaste. Don't cover
the brush with toothpaste: a pea-sized amount is just right (see picture at
right). Young children tend to swallow most of the toothpaste, and swallowing
too much fluoride toothpaste can cause permanent spots on their teeth.
What about using fluoride tablets?
If you live in an area where the tap water
doesn't contain fluoride, your doctor may prescribe daily fluoride when your
child is about 6 months old. Fluoride helps make teeth strong, but don't give
more than the directions call for. If you miss a day or two, don't give extra
fluoride to make up. Just as with swallowed toothpaste, too much oral fluoride
can cause spots on your child's teeth.
Does diet make much difference to my
Yes. The old advice about avoiding sweets,
sticky foods and between-meal snacks is good advice. Saliva in the mouth can
clean teeth, but it needs time to work. A child who snacks constantly during the
day never gives saliva the chance to clean the teeth.
Milk or other liquids taken from baby bottles
can create special problems. When the liquid from a bottle stays in contact with
the teeth for a long time, the teeth can decay quickly. Never put a baby to bed
with a bottle, unless it contains only plain water. Don't let your child walk
around during the day with a bottle, and teach your child to use a drinking cup
around the first birthday.
Does teething make a baby sick?
No. When teeth come through the gums, a child
may feel a little soreness and act a little fussy. Some children enjoy chewing
on a firm object or having their gums rubbed with a finger. Teething does not
appear to cause fever, rash, diarrhea or other illnesses. If your baby has any
of these symptoms, talk it over with your doctor.
Is thumb-sucking bad for my child?
It's normal for children to suck their thumbs,
their fingers or a pacifier. Most children give up this habit on their own by
age 4, with no harm done to their teeth. If your child still has a sucking habit
after age 4, tell your dentist. Your dentist can watch carefully for any
problems as the teeth develop. In most children there is no reason to worry
about a sucking habit until around age 6, when the permanent front teeth come
When should I start taking my child
to the dentist?
Pediatric dentists like to have a first visit
around the child's first birthday. This gives the dentist a chance to look for
early problems with the teeth. It's a good time to review important advice about
diet, bottles, tooth brushing and fluoride use. It also helps your child become
comfortable with a dental office and get started with regular dental check-ups.