- Wipe an infant's gums with a damp cloth or piece of gauze. Try this at least twice a day.
- When the first teeth come in, brush with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Use only a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste before a child is able to spit.
- Try to wean a child from the breast or bottle by age 1 and limit pacifiers and thumb sucking. Too much sucking can cause decay and push teeth out of place, especially after age 4 or 5.
- Don't give a child a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened liquid at bedtime. The sugar will lead to tooth decay.
- Help a young child brush their teeth and tongue at night, which is the most important time to clean. Let the child brush alone at first to build self-confidence and then do another round yourself. Count to 20 as you brush the outside of every tooth and then for the inside of teeth. » Be sure children floss once permanent teeth start coming in, or if two teeth are touching without a gap between. » Encourage children to brush after meals.
- Set up a child's first dental visit about six months after the first tooth comes in.
Alison Freehling's "How to" is a weekly feature on health, nutrition and fitness. To suggest a topic, call 247-4789 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.