Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Teeth: How to Care for Your Child's
How should I take care of my child's teeth?
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 child's teeth?
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 in.
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.