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Why Are Baby Cavities on the Rise?

Just because your child's pearly whites will wind up with the Tooth Fairy one day doesn't mean you should treat them like temps. Healthy baby teeth are essential for helping kids learn to chew, speak clearly, and smile with confidence, and for ensuring that their permanent teeth come in properly. Although parents pay close attention to a toddler's every sniffle, they often overlook their oral health. Bad idea. Dental disease is the single most common childhood illness, and a 2007 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that cavities among young kids are on the rise; 28 percent of them have cavities in their baby teeth. For your child, that could mean a trip to the dentist for scary drilling. The good news: Tooth decay is almost totally preventable -- as long as you take good care of your child's choppers.

When to Book the First Dentist Visit

If your 1-year-old hasn't been to the dentist, book an appointment now. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend having a first checkup by the time your child turns 1. At this visit, Dr. Green will spend more time discussing your child's oral health and addressing your concerns (such as sore gums or the rate at which teeth are coming in). If your child uses a pacifier, Dr. Green will probably encourage you to wean your child by age 2 to prevent potential bite or airway problems.

What If My Kid's Afraid?

Don't count on your child being a willing patient. "Most toddlers get upset, so the dentist has to sneak a look while they're screaming," says Jamie Johnson, DDS, creator of Smiles for a Lifetime, a DVD designed to calm young kids' fears about visiting the dentist. Here at GDM Jr. we believe in building trust and using patience to put your child at ease. Practicing at home how to open wide before an exam may ease your child's fears, and things should get a bit easier at the next visit.

How to Brush Their Teeth

Get into the routine of cleaning your child's teeth twice a day -- once after breakfast and again before she goes to bed. If your child doesn't have teeth yet (some kids get their first one as late as 17 months), wrap a wet washcloth around your finger and gently wipe her gums. This removes plaque and helps children adjust to the idea of having something inside of their mouth. Once your child’s teeth poke through, switch to an infant toothbrush. Dip it in water or toothpaste, but hold the fluoride toothpaste until he/she turns 4-6. Need ideas for getting your child to cooperate? Be creative. Let her pick out a toothbrush at the drugstore. Sing a song to distract her from the task. Or ask if she wants to "brush" by herself first. "Letting children play with a brush for a while makes it seem like a game, so they are more willing to let you take over," says Philip Hunke, DDS, president of the AAPD. Aim to spend a full minute cleaning the inside and outside surfaces of your child’s teeth and gums. Believe it or not, you should start flossing your child's teeth too. Start as soon as two of her teeth touch each other. Back molars are the hardest to reach -- and at the greatest risk for decay.