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How to care for your baby's gums and teeth

Should I start cleaning your gums before your teeth come out?


Yes. Even before your baby's first tooth appears, it is a good idea to start the habit of cleaning your gums with gauze or a soft wet wipe during your bath. You still don't need to use toothpaste. Simply place the gauze or wipe around your thumb and gently rub your baby's gums.


Bacteria in the mouth cannot usually damage the gums before the teeth come out. However, it might be difficult to know when the teeth will start to emerge, so it is good to start the cleaning routine early.


Getting your baby used to clean his mouth, as part of his daily routine, will surely facilitate the transition to brushing his teeth later.






What is the best way to brush your teeth?


When your baby's teeth start to appear (usually around 6 months), look for a special baby toothbrush with a small head and a large handle suitable for your hand.


If your baby is healthy and has not yet got his first tooth towards the end of his first year, do not worry: some children do not start dating until 15 or 18 months.


Use a small amount of fluoride pasta (about the size of a grain of rice). To avoid giving your child too much fluoride follow the following recommendation.


Brush your teeth gently, both the front and the back, twice a day. Also brush your tongue (if it leaves you) to eliminate bacteria that can cause bad breath. You do not need to rinse your mouth, because you are only using a very small amount of toothpaste.


Use a new toothbrush as soon as the bristles begin to look worn or in poor condition.



Most likely, for now, your baby's teeth are separated, so you don't need to worry about flossing. In fact, there is no evidence to show that flossing your baby's teeth makes a difference. Most dentists recommend starting to floss when the surfaces of your child's teeth begin to touch, since that makes it difficult to clean them only with the toothbrush.






How will I know if my baby receives the right amount of fluoride?


Your baby's developing teeth may benefit from a little fluoride. This mineral helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel and making it more resistant to acids and bacteria, which are harmful. Your baby can get fluoride through toothpaste and water. Also, your doctor or dentist can apply a fluoride gel or varnish on your teeth.


Note: In general, it is not a good idea to give your baby water to drink until he reaches 6 months of age. Until then, you will receive all the hydration you need from breast milk or formula milk, even in hot climates. If the water you use to prepare your baby's formula contains fluoride, it will receive that mineral from its intakes. Read more about giving your baby water.



Keep in mind that while fluoride is good for your baby's teeth, giving it too much can cause a condition called fluorosis, which could develop white spots on your child's adult teeth. That is why it is important to use only a quantity of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice, until your child is old enough to rinse his mouth and spit the waste from the paste.




In the United States, municipal water supply in most towns and cities is fortified with fluoride (you can call your local water company to find out about yours). If the water in your area is not fortified with fluoride or if you get water from a well, consider buying a special case to test the water at your health department, at a hardware store or a pharmacy.


If the results show a fluoride content of less than .3 parts per million, ask the pediatrician if you should give your baby a fluoride supplement (the recommended amount for children under 3 years old is .25 milligrams daily). You may be prescribed fluoride in drops, which you could add to your baby's bottle or cereal once a day. Experts do not recommend fluoride supplements for babies under 6 months of age.


Water and bottled juices may contain fluoride, although the amount is not always specified on the label.




When should I start taking my child to the dentist?



The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that you take your little one to see the dentist within the next 6 months, after his first tooth comes out.

Meanwhile, during each routine visit of your baby to the pediatrician, he should check his teeth (if he has any) and apply fluoride varnish every three to six months, depending on how prone your child is to develop cavities. (Factors that increase your risk of developing tooth decay include: a history of family decay or poor dental care for the mother during pregnancy).


When you take your child to the dentist, be sure to inform him about the fluoride treatments that your child already received at his pediatrician's office.


If you cannot afford your baby's dental care services, talk to your city's health department for information about free or low-cost services or programs available.






Are there certain foods that contribute to the appearance of tooth decay?


Sweet foods (including fresh fruit, nuts, juices, and foods such as peanut and jam peanut sandwiches) and foods high in starch (such as breads, crackers, pasta, and pretzels) can contribute to The appearance of caries.


It is recommended that you serve these foods to your child during meals. And if you give them as snacks, they will stay longer in their teeth and increase the chances of causing tooth decay. Serving them with water also helps.


Do not put your child to bed with a bottle of milk (either breast or formula), juice or any other sweet liquid. These fluids feed the bacteria that are in your mouth and cause tooth decay.


Dr. Armellini received her dental degree from the Central University of Venezuela. She received an MBA from the University of Michigan and embarked on a clinical fellowship in Implantology Prosthodontics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.


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