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Your child's first teeth are destined to eventually fall out to be replaced by permanent teeth. So, why take good care of them now?

There are many reasons. First, since baby teeth hold the place for the permanent teeth, the decay and loss of baby teeth can deform the mouth permanently. Of course, there is also the fact that your child will need these first teeth for biting and chewing for several years and without them it can lead to malnurtition. And, healthy teeth are important for healthy speech and appearance, both vital for a child's self-confidence.

How, then, do you properly care for your child's teeth? Well, the Dental Association of America suggests that you begin before your child gets his/her first tooth! Using a clean pad or guaze, gently rub the gums after each feeding, or at least before bedtime. Even formula or breastmilk left on a babies gums, especially over night, can cause baby-bottle mouth, which can result in having teeth removed. It is suggested that you do not allow babies to fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth because it causes baby-bottle mouth.

Once your child's first tooth appears on the scene, wipe it with a clean cloth or pad or use a VERY soft, tiny, infant brush with only water after meals. Most babies are anxious to do things on their own, so once your child is able to get control of hands and fingers (usually after ten months or a year) you can allow them to 'brush' their teeth themselves. While it may seem that they can't possibly be doing any good, with their clumsy movements, they are getting more than you might think. This also instills good hygiene habits in your child. If you feel that their teeth aren't clean enough, do use a wet cloth to gently wipe down teeth.

Toddlers get into the stage where they can begin using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on their toothbrush. (It is not reccommended to use more as children are apt to swallow and an over-dose of flouride is not good.) You can begin teaching your child the basics of good brushing. A good way to help them learn is to brush your teeth with them so they can learn by watching you.

When should your child first see a dentist? The answer varies. Some say at six months or when first tooth appears, while others say it does no harm to wait until after a year. Whichever you decide, your chid needs to visit a dentist around a year, or after all teeth have come in, so you can assure good dental health. Ask your pediatrician for a good pediatric dentist or one who sees a lot of children on a regular basis.

If you start your child brushing early and taking pride in their dental health, your child is more than likely to develope good dental habits that will remain through life.