8. How can parents decrease the risk of early-childhood tooth decay?
The AGD offers these suggestions:
- Wean a child from bottle to a cup by age one.
- Never allow a baby to fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water.
- Bring a child to the dentist between six and 12 months.
- Use spill-proof cups as a transitional step, not a long-term solution.
- Only allow a child continual access to spill-proof cups throughout the day if they contain water—save juice and milk for snack and mealtimes when increased saliva activity helps to clean teeth.
- Drink sugary beverages through a straw; the best spill-proof cups are those that have collapsible rubber straws.
- When your child is around age one, gradually dilute bottle contents with water over a period of two to three weeks—then fill bottles with only water or give a clean pacifier recommended by dentist. Water is the only safe liquid to prevent baby bottle tooth decay.
9. How should I clean baby teeth?
Wipe the baby's gums with a clean gauze square after each feeding, says the AAP, and begin brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they erupt, continuing to clean and massage baby's gums. Once your child reaches age two, the AGD recommends parents use a soft toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing a child's teeth (only under the supervision of a parent).
10. What should we do if our baby bites?
In her book Teeth Are Not for Biting, Elizabeth Verdick teaches kids that biting isn't OK; it hurts! Verdick gives reasons why children might want to bite—such as when teeth are coming in—and then suggests positive things kids can do to make themselves feel better. Verdick also offers these tips for teething:
- Cuddle your child more often. Hugs and kisses help!
- Offer cold water or teething rings that have been chilled in the refrigerator.
- Rub your child's gums with a clean finger.
- Give your child teething biscuits every so often. (Watch to make sure your child chews safely, though.)
- Talk to your child's doctor to see if pain medications are a safe, effective option.