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How sweet_x000D_
is it when your smiling baby reveals his very first tooth! Much like taking his_x000D_
first step and babbling his first word, the sight of new baby teeth is a major_x000D_
milestone in his development—and that means a visit to the dentist is in order.
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According to the American Academy_x000D_
of Pediatric Dentistry,_x000D_
children should visit the dentist by age one—something many new parents may_x000D_
find hard to believe. “I have found decay on infants as young as nine_x000D_
months of age,” says American Dental Association spokesperson Dr. Mary_x000D_
Hayes, a pediatric dentist in Chicago,_x000D_
IL. “Sadly, it is not rare_x000D_
to find babies with beginning and full cavities, and it is always shocking for_x000D_
parents to be told that their baby needs dental work. Baby teeth set the stage_x000D_
for the permanent teeth, so set the stage early to keep those pearly whites_x000D_
clean and healthy.”
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What to Expect
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Once you’ve found a suitable dentist for your baby, consider when is best to_x000D_
schedule that first visit. Dr. Hayes suggests making a morning appointment when_x000D_
children are rested and more cooperative. “In my experience, seeing a_x000D_
child at his nap time is a recipe for a difficult visit,” she says.
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Even if your child’s appointment is scheduled during an off time of day, don’t_x000D_
expect the dentist’s office to be a sanctuary. “The first visit at the_x000D_
dentist can be a noisy one—just like at the pediatrician’s office,” says_x000D_
Dr. Edward M. Jackson, owner of Pediatric Dentistry LLC in Hackensack, N.J._x000D_
“The majority of the visit is spent educating parents about cavity prevention.”_x000D_

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Your dentist will then talk to you about how to brush your child’s teeth and_x000D_
how your baby’s diet can affect oral health. He will also examine your child’s_x000D_
teeth and advise you of any tooth decay. Your dentist may also inquire as to_x000D_
whether your baby uses a pacifier and if he sucks his fingers or thumbs—all of_x000D_
which can help him advise you on how to care for your child’s teeth.
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Cleaning and Cavities
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Making a habit of brushing your child twice a day helps set the tone for a_x000D_
routine that can last a lifetime. Dr. Jackson recommends starting with a_x000D_
pea-sized amount of fluoride-free, safe-to-swallow toothpaste. Even if your_x000D_
child only has a few teeth, experts advise wiping their gums with a clean gauze_x000D_
pad. “This helps remove plaque that can harm erupting teeth,” notes_x000D_
Dr. Hayes.
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And if you think your baby is too young to get any cavities, think again._x000D_
Babies who are bottle-fed should no t be given anything but formula, milk or_x000D_
breast milk—and that means no juice. “Never give your child a bottle of_x000D_
anything other than water at night,” advises Dr. Hayes.
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Also, be mindful of how your own cleaning methods can play a part in cavity_x000D_
prevention. “Cavity-causing bacteria can be passed through saliva,”_x000D_
she adds. “When parents or caregivers ‘clean’ a pacifier or use the same_x000D_
utensil to taste food before feeding their child, they risk passing along these_x000D_
bacteria.” When in doubt, rinse off a tossed binky under water and use a_x000D_
separate utensil to taste warmed baby food.
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Chew on This
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Because babies’ first teeth start to show anywhere between six and fourteen_x000D_
months, they may experience a long stretch of fussiness or have difficulty_x000D_
sleeping or eating. “To ease the pain of teething, gently rub your baby’s_x000D_
gums with a wet gauze pad or let them chew on a teething biscuit or cool_x000D_
teething ring,” says Fern Ingber, president and CEO of America’s_x000D_
ToothFairy, National Children’s Oral Health Foundation.
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If your child exhibits any warning signs that are not associated with teething,_x000D_
such as diarrhea, rashes or a fever, Dr. Hayes advises calling your child’s_x000D_
pediatrician.

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