Between ages 1 and 3, your child will grow his full set of 20 teeth. Here, tips on how to keep them healthy and strong, from Cynthia Sherwood, DDS, a spokeswoman for the Academy of General Dentistry.
Take your baby to his first dental exam by age 1, suggests the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The dentist will go over feeding and cleaning habits, plus check for early signs of tooth decay.
Brush your infant's teeth with tap water. It contains fluoride (bottled water doesn't), which is needed for developing teeth and bones. Since too much fluoride can cause brown or white spots on incoming teeth, wait until age 2 to use pea-size amounts of fluoride toothpaste.
Don't let kids fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup; milk or juice that sits in the back of the top two front teeth can cause cavities.
A preliminary study of young children undergoing treatment for cavities in their baby teeth found that nearly 28 percent had a body mass index (BMI) above the 85th percentile, indicating overweight or obesity.
That percentage is more than 5 percent higher than the estimated national average, adding more fuel to the growing concern that poor food choices, including those sugary drinks and fruit juices so popular and convenient, likely are contributing to both obesity and tooth decay in very young children.
The findings were presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the Endocrine Society being held in San Diego, Calif. The study is one of 38 abstracts (out of 2,000 accepted) selected for inclusion in the society's Research Summaries Book.
Kathleen Bethin, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University at Buffalo and director of the pediatric endocrinology and diabetes fellowship program at Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo, is first author.
Dental cavities are the most common chronic disease of childhood, according to Healthy People 2010 -- 5-10 percent of young children have early childhood cavities -- and childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, reaching nearly 20 percent by 2008.
"We hypothesized that poor nutritional choices may link obesity and dental decay in young children, but there is very little published data associating these two health issues," says Bethin.
"The aim of our study was to obtain preliminary data on BMI, energy intake and metabolic profiles in young children with tooth decay."