A Practical Guide to Better Health
September 15, 2002 page 14
Written by: Dianne Hales
It's never too early to start caring for...
A Tot's Teeth
By age 3, one of five youngsters suffers from tooth decay, a problem that
permanent as well as baby teeth. "Most early childhood cavities can be
Dr. Mary Hayes, a pediatric dentist in Chicago. "The key is good oral
care in infancy."
Here's how to keep your child's smile healthy from the start:
- Wipe an infant's gums with a clean, damp washcloth at least once a day
- even before teeth appear. This dislodges the bacteria from the milk and
accustoms the baby to having his mouth cleaned.
- Ask your pediatric dentist about fluoride supplements if the water in your
area isn't fluoridated or your baby is entirely breast fed.
- Brush twice a day with a small baby toothbrush as teeth emerge. Clean and
massage the gums in toothless areas.
- Use a small drop of nonfluoridated toothpaste until a child is old enough
to spit. Even after he can wield a toothbrush, dispense his toothpaste and
help him to brush and floss until at least age 7.
- Never allow a child to fall asleep with a bottle of milk or any sweetened
liquid. If he needs to suck on something, try a bottle of cool water or a
- Limit juice, even if it's diluted. Within 20 minutes, the juice's acids
start working on the teeth.
- See a dentist if you notice spots on a baby's tooth. "A tooth may turn
gray after a bump," says Dr. Hayes. "It may not be serious, but
the dentist will want to monitor it."