Babies: How to care for first teeth

How should we care for our nine-month-old's first two teeth. Since I have a long history of dental problems, we are overly concerned, and truly want to care for her dental health!

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I commend you for your concern! Good hygiene is imperative. You should brush her teeth at least twice a day. Toothpaste is not necessary at this time, but if and when you do use it, you should use an amount only equal to the size of a match head or less. You should also floss in between these two teeth (and others as they erupt) at least once daily. In addition, it is a good idea to keep the gum tissue as clean and healthy as possible by gently brushing the gums or wiping them clean with a soft cloth.

I cannot caution parents enough against sending a child to bed with a bottle of juice or milk. If you are putting your daughter to bed with a bottle, make sure it contains only water. Great damage due to decay can occur if your daughter goes to bed nightly sucking on milk or juice. Also, if you are still nursing, it is a good idea to clean the breastmilk from the teeth, if at all possible, before your daughter goes to bed.

Fluoride will be an important part of her tooth development, especially if she happened to inherit "weak" teeth. I define "weak" teeth as teeth that have a relatively thin layer of enamel -- the protective outer layer of teeth. You should check with your local water district, your dentist or your pediatrician to see if the tap water is fluoridated and, if so, at what level. If there is little or no fluoride in your drinking water, fluoride supplements may be a good idea. You can get a prescription from your pediatrician or dentist.

You should also take your daughter to the dentist soon for a checkup. Some pedodontists state you should take your child to the dentist when the first tooth appears. I have recently begun asking parents to bring their children in at about one year old. Sometimes all that is accomplished at this first visit is an introduction and/or a ride in the chair. This introduces children to the dental office environment in a non-threatening manner. In that way, if an emergency should happen to occur, it may be less frightening for the child. In addition, if a dentist can get a good look at the teeth which are already present, any adverse conditions can be diagnosed and treated early. This sets up a more positive experience and attitude toward dentists and dentistry at a young age, which bodes better for future care and treatment. If your dentist is unwilling, for whatever reason, to see your daughter at this early age, ask for a referral to a pedodontist. Good luck!

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