When it comes to taking care of your little one's first pearly whites, prevention is key. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should first see a dentist whenever his first tooth comes in, usually between 6 months and 1 year of age. Even before that first tooth appears, though, the AAPD recommends cleaning baby's gums with a soft infant toothbrush and water starting at birth (unless otherwise recommended, don't use fluoridated toothpaste until age 2 or 3).
To prevent Early Childhood Caries (also known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries), don't put baby to bed with a bottle or nurse at-will at night after his first tooth appears. Also try to make the switch to a sippy cup between 12 and 14 months.
And don't worry too much about that thumb-sucking or pacifier habit-the AAPD says that only prolonged sucking can cause damage. The association recommends discouraging the habit if it continues after age 4. For more information or to find a pediatric dentist in your area, visit aapd.org.