Smile Pretty: How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Ah, those little pearly whites. After enduring weeks of teething pains, your babyís toothy smile never fails to light up a room or warm your heart. But bright smiles can dim quickly if babyís teeth are not cleaned and cared for correctly. Use these dental tips to keep your babyís grin great.

Start Early
Teething can begin as early as 4 months, but most babies wonít get their first tooth until 6 months. Teeth often arrive in pairs, with the bottom front two showing up first, followed by the top two. Even before these tiny teeth show, you should massage your babyís gums gently with a damp washcloth. This will help keep gums healthy and ease teething pain.

Say No to a Nightcap
Putting a baby to bed with a bottle, which he can suck on for hours, is the major cause of baby bottle tooth decay. This condition, the leading dental problem for children under 3, occurs when a young childís teeth are exposed for a prolonged period of time to sugary liquids, such as formula and fruit juices. As a result, the enamel on the babyís teeth starts to dissolve, leading to decay and possible infection. This can even affect the development and spacing of permanent teeth.

Fortunately, you can prevent baby bottle tooth decay by following these steps from the
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (place Web site here):

  • Donít allow a child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juices, or other sweet liquids. Never let a child walk with a bottle in her mouth.

  • Comfort a child who wants a bottle between regular feedings or during naps with a bottle filled with cool water.

  • Always make sure a child's pacifier is clean, and never dip a pacifier in a sweet liquid.

  • Introduce children to a cup as they approach 1 year of age. Children should stop drinking from a bottle soon after their first birthday.

  • Look for any unusual red or swollen areas in a child's mouth or any dark spot on your child's tooth and consult a dentist immediately once theyíre discovered.

Safety Tip
Donít use fluoride toothpaste on your childís teeth until at least age 3, when he is old enough not to swallow the toothpaste. Ingesting toothpaste can result in tooth staining or surface irregularities on the enamel. Donít worry about your little one getting enough fluoride, an important compound that strengthens enamel and prevents tooth decay. Most cities and towns add fluoride to their water systems for this purpose. If your water comes from a well or you prefer bottled water (which doesnít contain fluoride), ask your pediatrician or dentist about fluoride supplements.

Further Reading
Want to know more about your childís choppers? Chew on these features:

My Baby Canít Sleep Without a Bottle