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How Do I Care for My Baby's Teeth?

My 5-month-old daughter is teething, but she hasn't gotten her first tooth yet. How should I care for her teeth when they come in?
Nicole

Proper dental care begins before your daughter's first tooth appears. Each day, run a clean, damp washcloth or an infant toothbrush over her gums to clear away harmful bacteria.

When her teeth begin to come in, follow these tips:

  • Brush her teeth with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of toothpaste. Talk with your dentist about fluoride.
  • When your baby's teeth touch, you can begin flossing between them.
  • When she's about age 2, start teaching your daughter to spit while brushing. Don't give water to swish and spit because she could swallow toothpaste.

Even babies can get tooth decay. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle can harm a baby's teeth. Sugars from juice, formula, or milk that stay on a baby's teeth for hours can eat away at the enamel (the layer of the tooth that protects against tooth decay). This can lead to "bottle mouth" or "baby bottle tooth decay." When this happens, the front teeth can get discolored, pocked, and pitted. Cavities might form and, in severe cases, the decayed teeth might need to be pulled.

When kids are 6 months old, they can switch from a bottle to a sippy cup (with a straw or hard spout). This helps prevent liquid from pooling around a child's teeth.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date Reviewed: 29-11-2019

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