As early as baby teeth begin to emerge, tooth decay can begin. Left untreated, it can destroy teeth and lead to pain, infection, and loss of function. Follow these tips to keep your child’s mouth healthy from the very start.

1. Clean your baby’s mouth and gums regularly with a soft infant toothbrush or a cloth and water. Once baby teeth appear, brush them at least twice daily with an age-appropriate-sized toothbrush and a smear of fluoridated toothpaste.

2. Give fluoride supplements to children older than 6 months if drinking water does not contain enough fluoride. (Fluoridation is not a state-wide mandate in the NJ drinking-water supply.)Supplementation in infants has been shown to reduce tooth decay by as much as 50 percent.

3. Wean your baby from a bottle by 12–14 months of age. Encourage him to be drinking from a cup around his first birthday.

4. Visit a pediatric dentist before your child’s first birthday, and then twice a year.

5. Avoid at-will breastfeeding after the first baby tooth appears and other dietary carbohydrates are introduced. (Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and then for as long as mother and baby desire.)

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports that:

  • 97 percent of parents do not know their children need to visit a pediatric dentist within the first year of life
  • Only 33 percent of moms consider oral health a concern for their infants

Source: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

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