Infant/Toddler Oral Health

The “Littles” and Their First Pediatric Dental Visit

When should my child first see a pediatric dentist?

“First visit by first birthday” sums it up. Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between six and twelve months of age. Early exams and regular preventative care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.

Why so early?

There are lots of important reasons to establish a dental home at a young age. The most important reason is to help establish great oral health right away. We will review brushing & flossing, toothpaste usage, tooth friendly snacking options, bottles & sippy cups, finger and pacifier habits, and any other concerns or questions you may have. We will also complete a caries risk assessment to help determine your child’s risk level for cavities in the future.

Do I need to worry about cavities already?

Believe it or not, yes. Dental decay can occur at a very young age, and keeping baby teeth happy and healthy is an important part of a child’s overall health. Dental decay is the most common childhood disease (even more common than asthma), and it can occur for lots of reasons—knowledge is the key to preventing cavities.

Are baby teeth really that important to my child?

Primary, or “baby,” teeth are important for so many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.

How often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?

A checkup every six months is recommended in order to prevent cavities and monitor other dental concerns.

Why a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. Just as a pediatrician develops special talents, skills and knowledge for working with children, a pediatric dentist is able to effectively care for the dental needs of young people. Pediatric dentists receive special training in working with children of all ages, and with children, adolescents, and adults with special needs. Everything about our offices are geared specifically towards your child for a great visit!

We feel it is so important to make sure your child visits the dentist early that we offer all patients under 2 FREE new patient exams!

About Brushing & Flossing

When should I start cleaning my baby’s teeth?

The sooner the better! Before your babies teeth actually erupt, it’s great to get into the habit of wiping their gums with a soft, wet cloth after each feeding. Once baby teeth erupt, start to brush their teeth with a soft infant toothbrush or finger brush at least twice a day, and ideally after each feeding (especially at night). Switch over to a toddler brush around the same age that your child starts walking. At this point, brush their teeth for 2 minutes each morning and each night. Your child can start to “help” you brush, but it is important that you brush for them until around the age of 6 or 7.

What kind of toothpaste due I use, and how much?

With the eruption of your child’s teeth, you want to start using a fluoridated toothpaste. However, only use a tiny smear of that paste until around the age of 3, or when your child can spit appropriately. At that age, you can increase to a small pea size amount. There are so many fun flavors of toothpaste now—as long as it’s fluoridated, whatever flavor/texture your child likes is the one to use.

When do we start flossing?

It’s great to get into the habit of using floss sticks right away, but definitely once you toddler’s baby molars start to come in.

About Teething: Symptoms & Comfort

When do children start teething?

Click to enlarge:

Infants typically start to get their primary teeth between 4–12 months of age. These teeth continue to come in through 2–3 years old. Babies usually get their bottom two front teeth first, followed by their top two front teeth.

What symptoms are associated with teething?

Symptoms of teething can start several weeks before the teeth actually erupt. The most common symptoms are irritability, excessive salivation or drooling, and some localized discomfort or gum swelling. A secondary side effect of excessive drooling are patches of irritated or dry skin on your child’s chin and/or cheeks.

My child has a fever; isn’t that a symptom as well?

No, normally it isn’t. Fever, diarrhea and rashes are often thought of as symptoms of teething but actually are not related.

My baby seems uncomfortable—what can I do to help?

Try wetting a washcloth and putting it in the freezer for a bit, and then letting your child suck or bite down on it. The cold will help reduce some of the gum inflammation and reduce the pain. Cold teething rings also work great, as well as rubbing his/her gums with your finger while applying light pressure.

I tried all of that, but my child still seems to be having some trouble eating and sleeping. What else can I try?

When a child is having trouble eating or sleeping from teething symptoms, try giving them the appropriate dose of children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help.

What about teething tablets or topical gels?

There are a number of homeopathic teething gels and tablets on the market that are thought to relieve pain. However, these products are not well researched and not controlled in a way that is consistent with other medications you give your child. Some contain ingredients that can be potentially toxic to infants. Because of the unknown potential side effects, we would not recommend these products.

About Thumb, Finger, & Pacifier Habits

Should I worry about my child’s thumb, finger, or pacifier sucking?

Habits like this are perfectly normal for infants; most stop by age 2. If your child does not stop naturally, discourage it after age 3 or 4. Prolonged sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth, or bite problems. We will be glad to suggest ways to address a prolonged sucking habit.

Are these habits bad for the teeth and jaws?

Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between two and four years of age. However, some children repeatedly suck on a finger, pacifier or other object over long periods of time. In these children, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come in properly. We will continue to monitor your child’s development and review concerns about his/her sucking habit with you at each visit.

What can I do to stop my child's habit?

Some children need the help of their parents and their pediatric dentist to help a sucking habit. When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit (usually not until after the age of 3), we can encourage your child to stop, as well as talk about what happens to the teeth if he/she doesn’t stop. If the habit still doesn’t stop, we can talk about other products and options that can help.

Nursing, Bottles, & Sippy Cups

For babies and toddlers, liquids are one of the biggest concerns related to oral health. Here are four tips to help:

Nursing, Bottles & Sippy Cups
  1. When nursing, be sure to clean baby teeth after each feeding—especially at night.
  2. Never let your child go to bed with a bottle.
  3. Don’t let your child walk around with or drink throughout the day from a bottle or sippy cup with anything except water in it. Milk & juice should be saved for meal times only.
  4. Try to switch from a bottle to a sippy cup, and then to a regular cup, as soon as possible.