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Taking Care of Your Child's Teeth
Duke University Health System

It's never too early to begin good oral hygiene habits. Here are a few tips to help you care for your child's teeth and gums--and start your youngster on a lifelong path toward good dental health.

It's important to begin cleaning your child's teeth as soon as the first one erupts. Even milk or formula can cause tooth decay if not wiped off the baby's teeth.

It's best not to put your baby to bed with a bottle. Milk can pool behind the teeth and promote decay. If your baby demands a bottle at bedtime, serve water.

Change over to a cup for drinking by your child's first birthday.

Start regular dental visits by your child's first birthday to learn how to take care of his or her teeth and gums. Then, take your child to the dentist every six months for a dental exam, cleaning, and fluoride treatment.

Do not tell your children horror stories about going to the dentist. If your child senses that you are afraid of the dentist, he or she will probably be fearful as well. Going to the dentist can be a fun and positive experience.

Before using fluoridated toothpaste, make sure your child can spit out any paste left in the mouth after brushing. To minimize swallowing, put only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste onto the brush and press it into the bristles.

Right-handed children brush the teeth on their left side of the mouth best, so parents should help brush the teeth on the right side. The opposite holds true for left-handed children.

Parents need to floss between any teeth that are touching. Typically, the gaps between the baby molars close at age four.

Give your child healthy snack foods like celery and carrots. Sugar-free gum helps stimulate saliva and cleanse the teeth.

Have your child wear a sports mouthguard while playing any contact sport. Make sure your child's coach has access to a "Save a Tooth Kit" (ask your dentist for details).

Don't forget to model good oral hygiene habits yourself!

Duke University Health System is committed to excellence, innovation and leadership in meeting the health care needs of the people we serve, improving community health, and fostering the very best medical education and biomedical research. For more information, visit: www.dukehealth.org


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