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Kids & Oral Health

Dear Debi,
My baby’s first teeth are coming in. How important is it to start brushing them now? Since they are “baby teeth,” do I have to worry about them?
Regina Romero
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle
  • Begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as his first tooth appears
  • Schedule regular dental visits beginning when your child is a year old
  • If your water supply doesn’t contain fluoride, ask your dentist about options
Expert Advice
Dr. Valery Sweeny
Dr. Valery Sweeny
Oral health is important because children need their teeth to be healthy in order to eat, smile and talk. A child’s first set of teeth – or primary teeth – should be taken care of because they help the child to eat and they help him understand how to use his teeth for chewing. As well, these primary teeth save the space later for permanent teeth.

Babies start getting their first teeth at around 6 months of age on average. By age 1, children should have their four frontal teeth. By age 6, children should have their complete set of teeth.

There are several things parents can do to help ensure their baby’s teeth are healthy. Do not put babies or toddlers to bed with a bottle filled with milk, formula, juice, etc. Don’t dip pacifiers in anything sweet. Also, adults can spread germs that cause cavities, so avoid sharing spoons, etc.

After a child eats or drinks, you should clean your child’s mouth with gauze or a small toothbrush to make sure there is no debris left in the mouth. When your child is very young (before his or her teeth start coming in), wiping your child’s gums with gauze is enough.

Teething is uncomfortable for children and not much can really be done. You can help by giving your child a clean, cool teething ring, spoon or washcloth. Keep in mind that every time a tooth comes in, the child will be in pain.

Brushing Techniques
For infants, use gauze to clean their teeth. For small children, use a back and forth motion with the toothbrush. Begin flossing once teeth have come in and there’s space between them. Up to the age of six, brushing and flossing should be done under adult supervision.

Visiting the Dentist
Children should be taken to the dentist by their first birthday. After their first visit, they should return every 6 months after that. Dentist visits should be made twice a year for the rest of a person's life.

Foods to Avoid
To help prevent your child’s teeth from decaying, you should avoid any drinks with sugar, especially sodas. Candy should also be avoided. It may be difficult to control your child’s candy intake, but you really need to limit quantity. If they do consume candy, have them brush their teeth immediately afterwards.
Caregiver Comments
Doneisha Beard
Doneisha Beard
Single mother
I bought Kamhai this little stool so that when I brush my teeth, he brushes his teeth. We brush our teeth in the morning and at night. We have our own routine. I get his special toothpaste first and I brush his teeth. Then, he brushes his teeth on his own while I brush mine. He has lots of fun toothbrushes which make it more exciting for him.
Verdis Ferraro
Verdis Ferraro
Child care provider for 23 years
With the children in my care, we do a tooth brushing regimen everyday. We sing songs about it and we do it all together before nap time. Everyone has a toothbrush and we brush together. I show them how a toothbrush is a tool – not a toy, so I don’t allow them to chew on it or brush other things with it.
Deborah Vasquez
Deborah Vasquez
Grandmother of 12
I brush my grandkids’ teeth every morning before leaving and we also teach them to floss. I brush the baby’s teeth with those baby toothbrushes and then I let her try to do it by herself so she can get some practice. She doesn’t really know what she’s doing but she thinks it is fun.

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Kids & Oral Health
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