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How Do I Care for My Baby's Teeth?

My 5-month-old daughter is teething, but she hasn't gotten her first tooth yet. How should I care for her teeth when they come in?
- Nicole

Proper dental care begins before your daughter's first tooth appears. Each day, run a clean, damp washcloth over her gums to clear away harmful bacteria.

Once her teeth begin to come in, follow these tips:

Even babies can develop tooth decay if good feeding habits aren't practiced. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle might be convenient, but can harm the baby's teeth. When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby's teeth for hours, they can eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth. Pocked, pitted, or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Severe cases result in cavities and the need to pull all of the front teeth until the permanent ones grow in.

Never let your daughter fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth, and set specific times for drinking because sucking on a bottle throughout the day can be equally damaging to young teeth. Once she's 6 months old, she can switch from a bottle to a sippy cup (with a straw or hard spout), which lowers the dental risks related to bottle-feeding.

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: May 2015

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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