Early Dental Care

Parent brushing infant's teeth

First Visit

According to the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child’s first dental check-up should occur between the ages of 6 months to one year. Informing your child about their first dental visit is very helpful. At your child’s first visit, we will review the medical/dental health history form with you.  Your child will meet the dentist and have everything explained to him/her.

We encourage parents to accompany their child during their visit.  This gives you an opportunity to see us working with your child and allows us to discuss dental findings and treatment needs directly with you.  A thorough head and neck examination and evaluation of the teeth and gums are performed. Radiographs (x-rays) are taken only if necessary. If no treatment is needed, the teeth will be cleaned and a fluoride treatment will be provided.

We look forward to meeting you and your child for your first appointment!

Importance and Care of Primary Teeth (Baby Teeth)

Baby teeth, also called primary teeth, are shed, but they are still very important for a number of reasons. Children need strong, healthy baby teeth in order to chew food properly, to pronounce words correctly, and to maintain space in the jaw for the permanent teeth. That is why it is important to take good care of the primary teeth by keeping them clean and healthy.

Even before the first tooth erupts, your child’s gums should be wiped gently with a wet cloth or gauze after every feeding. At the appearance of the first tooth, begin brushing your child’s teeth with water. Children older than 2 years should be supervised during brushing to ensure that only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is used, and that the toothpaste is spit out rather than swallowed, and they rinse with water afterward.

Preventing Decay

Primary teeth, if not kept clean and healthy, can develop decay. This decay can lead to infection, which can damage permanent teeth. Tooth decay in infants and young children occurs when the teeth undergo frequent and extended exposure to liquids containing sugar. To keep your child’s teeth cavity free and avoid oral pain, do not allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing anything other than water. Milk, formula, and juice, when given to a child right before they fall asleep, can remain on the teeth and in the mouth and cause tooth decay. If your child needs a pacifier between feedings or at bedtime, give them a clean pacifier. Do not give your child a pacifier dipped in honey or sugar.

Early Dental Care FAQs

When should we use toothpaste for our child and how much should we use?

We recommend slowly introducing your child to toothpaste with fluoride. Starting between ages 1-2 (depending on your child’s dental needs) use a tiny pea-sized amount on the toothbrush – only once daily. Begin teaching your child how to spit by watching you spit into the sink. Once your child has mastered spitting you can transition to fluoride toothpaste in the morning and evening.

What should I use to clean my child’s teeth?

Starting at birth you should begin cleaning your child’s gums with a wet washcloth. Once your child has 4 or more teeth a soft bristle toothbrush is recommended. The AAPD recommends introducing a VERY small amount of fluoride-based toothpaste starting at age 1. We will discuss specific recommendations based on your child’s cavity predisposition at the first visit.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

A toothache can be caused for several reasons: decay, infection, or even a loose tooth. We do NOT recommend using dental numbing creams. Being evaluated in person is the best way to assess the cause of your child’s pain. 

How safe are dental x-rays?

While dental x-rays do involve small radiation exposure, we use state of the art digital film which reduces exposures to very low levels which are widely accepted as safe for children. We use body and neck shields on all patients to minimize exposure. Dental x-ray exposure is about the same as average daily background exposure and only a fraction of the exposure from a cross-country flight.

Does nursing or using a bottle cause decay?

Babies often nurse or take bottles during the night. Breast milk, formula, or cow’s milk all contain sugars. When broken down, these sugars can cause decay often called “Baby Bottle Decay” or “Early Childhood Caries.” It is important to wipe down or brush your child’s teeth after feeding to avoid decay. As your child grows older, we advise stopping night feeding to prevent decay on baby teeth.