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Protect Your Baby's Smile

Follow these tips to prevent early tooth decay, damage

SATURDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- The best way to give your children's teeth a healthy start is to begin dental care early in life, and the American Dental Association has tips for keeping kids' teeth in tip-top shape:

  • Visit the dentist for regular checkups. Set up an appointment within six months of the eruption of a child's first tooth, but no later than the first birthday. Routine exams, cleanings and fluoride treatments can catch problems early before they get worse and require significant care.
  • Guard against tooth decay by clearing your baby's mouth within a few days of birth and wiping your baby's gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad after every feeding. This will help remove plaque.
  • Don't allow your child to breast-feed for long periods of time. Tooth decay can develop if you allow your baby to nap or sleep at night with a bottle of milk, formula, sugar water or fruit juice.
  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup by age 1.
  • Discourage frequent use of a training cup.
  • For older kids who play sports or even those who ride a scooter or bicycle, mouth protectors can provide important protection. Your dentist may be able to make a better-fitting mouth protector than those supplied in stores.
  • Know what to do if your child has a dental emergency: If a tooth is knocked out, rinse off the root if it's dirty but don't scrub it or remove attached tissue fragments. If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket; if that's not possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk and get to the dentist right away.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more on children's dental care.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Dental Association, news release, February 2010

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