Pregnancy and Beyond

Between 12 and 18 months of age, a baby usually has four front top teeth, four front bottom teeth, and four back teeth. You can brush these teeth with a small soft-bristled toothbrush using little or no toothpaste. Clean your child's gums with a warm, clean, wet washcloth.

As you wean your baby, the naptime and nighttime bottles are often the last to go. Putting your baby to bed with a bottle can cause "baby bottle tooth decay," a serious dental disease. Instead, let her have the bottle before laying her down to sleep. Sucking on a thumb or finger is relaxing to babies and will not cause damage to the teeth at this age.

Babies eat finger foods throughout the day. To reduce the risk of tooth decay, limit how often you give sugars and starches rather than limit the amount of these foods. Give her three crackers at one time, rather than one cracker three times during the morning. "Natural" sugars are as harmful to the teeth as refined sugars.

Remember to give a daily fluoride supplement, as prescribed by your health care provider or dentist, until your child is 14 years of age, unless your water supply is fluoridated. Take your child to the dentist for regular checkups.