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You can keep your child from getting tooth decay by starting his dental care early. Follow these steps to prevent cavities and keep his beautiful smile healthy.

No. 1. Get a Checkup

Your child should see a dentist by his first birthday. Early preventive care saves you money in the long run. A CDC report shows that dental care costs are nearly 40% lower over a 5-year period for children who see a dentist by age 5.

No. 2. Teach Good Habits

Brushing is crucial from the get-go. Before your baby has teeth, you can gently brush his gums. Use water on a baby toothbrush, or clean them with a soft washcloth.

When your baby's teeth appear, brush twice a day with an infant toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.

Start flossing when two of his teeth touch each other. Ask your dentist about techniques and schedules.

Brush and floss just before bedtime. After that, don't give your child any food or drink, except water, until the next morning.

Your dentist can suggest when your child should start using mouthwash. You'll need to wait until he knows how to spit it out.

No. 3. Avoid 'Baby Bottle Decay'

Don't put your infant or older child down for a nap with a bottle of juice, formula, or milk. Sugary liquids cling to his teeth, feeding bacteria that can cause tooth decay.

If you must give your child a bottle to take to bed, make sure it contains only water.

No. 4. Cut Back on Juice

Many parents think juice is a healthy daylong choice for a drink, but it can lead to tooth decay.

Limit your child to no more than 4 ounces a day of 100% fruit juice. Only give sugary drinks and foods at mealtimes, and use juice as a treat.

No. 5. Control the Sippy Cup

A sippy cup can help kids move from a bottle to a glass, but don't let him drink from it all day long. Using it too much can lead to decay on the back of the front teeth if the drinks are sugary.

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