By the time your child is 5, more than 30 percent of his classmates will have tooth decay, which can be well advanced even by age 3. “Early preventative care is the key to keeping your baby cavity-free,” says Elizabeth a. Shick, D.D.S., M.P.H., assistant professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Colorado, Denver School of Dental Medicine.
Related: The New Mom's Survival Guide
But the tips you've heard from your mom and your mom's mom might not be the best plan of action today (like waiting until baby's older to use fluoride toothpaste): the American Dental Association recently changed their guidelines. Read on to learn the latest in tooth-care, plus timeless tips that keep your baby's teeth cavity-free.
Related: The Truth About Teething
Keep bacteria at bay. Before the first tooth erupts, wipe your baby’s gums with a wet washcloth after every feeding. The Mam Oral Care Rabbit features soft rabbit “ears” that fit over your fingers so you can gently remove bacteria. ($6, amazon.com)
Brush early and often. Starting with the first tooth, begin a twice-daily routine using a soft infant brush. Place the soft rubber bristles of the NUK Grins & Giggles Infant Tooth & Gum Cleanser on your fingertip to “brush” your baby’steeth. ($7, amazon.com)
Use fluoride sooner than you think. Brush baby's first teeth with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth surface (instead of waiting until baby's older), according to the latest guidelines from the American Dental Association, which suggest an early start for optimal cavity prevention. The recommendation follows a new review published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, finding that fluoride toothpaste can reduce cavities in children under 6-years-old. Just make sure you use small amounts, to avoid ingestion.
Soothe sore gums. You can alleviate pain with teething rings, cold spoons or a cold wet washcloth or even a clean finger. If you choose a teething product, reach for one that doesn’t contain the local anesthetic benzocaine; the Food and Drug administration recommends that parents not choose benzocaine products for children younger than 2 years old as its use can lead to methemoglobinemia, a rare but serious disorder in which the amount of oxygen in the blood stream is greatly reduced. Homeopathic Baby Orajel Naturals Quick Dissolve Teething Tablets are free of benzocaine, dyes and parabens. ($7, walgreens.com)
Even breast milk and formula can lead to tooth decay, so take your baby to a pediatric dentist shortly after she gets her first tooth (usually around 6 months) and no later than her first birthday.