Most babies are born without teeth, which might lead you to think you can forget about dental care until the first tooth erupts. Many pediatric dentists, however, say otherwise. They recommend good oral care from the start in order to prepare the baby for what is to come.

Dentists recommend you clean your baby’s gums at least twice a day, once after the first feeding and once after the last feeding. If time permits, you may clean your baby’s gums after each feeding. To clean your baby’s gums, just run a clean, damp washcloth along their lower and upper gums.

Most babies will get their first tooth sometime between the ages of six to 12 months. Many pediatric dentists recommend you set up a dental appointment for your child when this occurs. The dentist will conduct a thorough examination of your child’s mouth to make sure everything is in order.

In addition to taking your baby to the dentist regularly, you should also brush their teeth and gums. For this task, you will need a soft infant toothbrush and age-appropriate toothpaste. You should brush your baby’s teeth and gums twice a day.

There are further steps you can take to prevent the development of decay. Never let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. Whatever liquid remains in the bottle might pool into their mouth and set up a breeding ground for germs and decay. Never give your baby fruit juice in a bottle. Again, this could lead to pooling, which could lead to decay. Give them fruit juice in a cup instead, and make sure you wean them from the bottle by the age of 14 months. Finally, discourage thumb sucking, especially past the age of two. It could lead to problems with alignment of the teeth.

Caring for your baby’s teeth and gums early on will get them into the habit of having their mouth cared for and set the stage for good oral hygiene later on. Once your child reaches the age of three, you may be able to take on more of a supervisory role and let them brush their teeth on their own. Just make sure they use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and brush all of their teeth properly. And don’t forget about flossing, which is essential to healthy teeth. Teach your child to floss daily.

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