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How to care for baby teeth

Baby teeth may be small, but they’re important because they help your baby chew and speak properly. Plus, they’re placeholders for adult teeth. Here are answers to common questions about caring for baby teeth.

Why do I need to clean my baby’s gums when he or she doesn’t even have teeth? The main reason for doing this is so that your baby gets used to having his or her mouth cleaned. Getting in the habit now will make it easier to brush his or her teeth in a few months.

When does the first tooth usually come in? Usually between 6 and 10 months of age.

Do I need to start brushing that first tooth right away? Yes, brush your baby’s teeth twice a day. The second brushing should be just before bedtime so that you get rid of any sugars sticking to his or her teeth. Use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny dab of toothpaste. Don’t worry if your baby swallows the toothpaste—in tiny amounts it’s OK. Most kids don’t rinse after brushing until they’re around 2.

Why can’t I give my baby a bottle at bedtime? When babies fall asleep with a bottle, the milk or juice pools in their mouth, bathing their teeth in sugar. This creates an acid that can break down enamel, causing cavities.

Is it true that my germs can give my baby a cavity? Yes. If you taste your baby’s food with the same spoon that he or she will eat from or give the pacifier a quick “wash” in your mouth, you can pass along bacteria that causes cavities.

When should I take my baby to the dentist for the first time? Ideally, when the first tooth erupts, but no later than 12 months. When you’re there, be sure to ask your dentist if fluoride treatments are recommended.

Want to know more about finding a pediatric dentist, making an appointment, or checking your covered benefits? Call the number on your member ID card.