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Decayed baby teeth can affect a child's speech, cause pain, and cause adult teeth to grow incorrectly.<p></p>

The importance of "Baby Teeth" and childhood dental health

Delta Dental of Washington Provides Answers to Parents' Most Asked Pediatric Dental Health Questions

How to care for baby teeth

New parents have so many responsibilities that the state of their babies' gums and future teeth might be the last thing on their minds. However, caring for gums and teeth from birth can drastically influence a child's future health, ability to speak and growth of adult teeth.

"Baby teeth are so important, those teeth are going to be in [a child's] mouth until they're 10, 11, 12, 13 years old. It's just really critical to get them in good habits early on." said Dr Abbie Gourdarzi, Delta Dental of Washington, Dental Consultant.

Baby teeth hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums, according to the American Dental Association. When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when they come in.

New parents naturally have a lot of questions about how to adequately care for their babies' teeth. Delta Dental of Washington identified some common questions and answers.

When will my baby's teeth come in?

Babies grow and develop at different rates, and that includes teeth development—some babies are even born with a tooth or two. For most babies, however, the first tooth doesn't erupt until around six months. The central incisors (bottom middle teeth) usually appear first, followed by the top middle teeth, then the teeth on either side of those, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When should I start brushing my baby's teeth?

Before babies sprout their first teeth, you can use a wet washcloth or piece of gauze to wipe their gums after they eat and before bedtime. Doing this removes the harmful bacteria that clings to gums and could potentially damage newly erupting baby teeth, according to Delta Dental of Washington.

The ADA recommends brushing your baby's teeth with an infant toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste as soon as that first tooth appears.

Is fluoride toothpaste safe for my baby?

Fluoride plays a significant role in reducing cavities. While too much isn't good for your baby, you can use a small amount - about the size of a grain of rice. By age three your child will be ready to learn how to spit the toothpaste out, rather than swallow it.

Fluoride is also in most drinking water.

"Around 75 percent of homes in the U.S. already have fluoridated water, and studies suggest fluoride in drinking water is a major part of children's dental health; fluoridated water reduces cavities by at least 25 percent," according to Delta Dental of Washington.

When should I schedule my child's first dentist appointment?

Dentists like to see babies within six months of the appearance of their first tooth or by age one, whichever comes first. Dental appointments during a baby's early years usually consist of a tooth cleaning with a toothbrush and toothpaste, an exam when you can discuss concerns and ask questions, and the application of a fluoride varnish to protect the enamel of growing teeth.

What might increase my child's chances of cavities?

What your child eats is the biggest contributing factor to the development of cavities. Consuming sticky, chewy or sugary foods (including high-sugar fruits like bananas or carbohydrates from bread sources) on a regular basis increases your child's chances of cavities.

Other possible risk factors include the naturally-occurring bacteria found in saliva, the strength of enamel, and the structure of teeth. Because several factors are beyond your control, visiting the dentist regularly is an important part of your child's dental care.

For more details about how to care for your baby's teeth or to find a dentist near you, visit for information.