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It might seem hard to imagine/ that a bad tooth/ could be deadly. But doctors/ in the Washington area/ say a twelve-year-old boy/ died last month/ from a tooth infection/ that spread to his brain. They say/ it might have been prevented/ had the boy/ received the dental care/ he needed.

Experts/ at the National Institutes of Health/ say good dental care/ starts at birth. They say/ breast milk/ is the best food/ for the healthy developmen/t of teeth. Breast milk/ can help slow bacterial growth/ and acid production/ in the mouth.

But dentists say/ you should clean your baby's gums/ and early teeth/ after each feeding. Use a cloth/ with a little warm water. Do the same/ if you bottle feed your baby. Experts say/ if you decide to put your baby/ to sleep with a bottle, give your baby/ only water.

When baby teeth/ begin to appear, you can clean them/ with a wet toothbrush. Dentists say/ it is important to find soft toothbrushes/ made especially for babies. And use them/ very gently.

The use of fluoride/ to protect teeth/ is common/ in many parts of the world. This natural element/ is often added/ to drinking water supplies. The fluoride mixes/ with enamel, the hard surface/ on teeth, to help prevent holes, or cavities, from forming.

But the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry/ points out/ that young children/ often swallow toothpaste/ when they brush. The group notes/ that swallowing fluoridated toothpaste/ can cause problems. So young children/ should be carefully supervised/ when they brush their teeth. And only a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste, the size of a green pea, should be used.

Parents/ often wonder/ about what effect/ thumb sucking/ or sucking on a pacifier/ might have/ on their baby's teeth. Dental experts/ generally agree/ that this is fine/ early in life.

The American Academy of Family Physicians says/ most kids/ stop sucking their thumbs/ by the age of four. If it continues, the group/ advises parents/ to talk to their child's dentist/ or doctor. It could interfere/ with the correct development/ of permanent teeth.

Dentists/ strongly advise a first dental visit/ at least/ by the time/ a child is one year old. They say/ babies/ should be examined/ when their first teeth/ appear.

Healthy teeth/ are meant to last a lifetime. Daily cleaning/ is important/ to preventing infections/ and other problems.