American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
Dental Care for Your Baby
Q: When should my child first see a dentist?
A: "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 examination and preventive care will
protect your child's smile now and in the future.
Q: Why so early? What dental problems could a baby have?
A: The most important reason is a practical prevention program. Dental
problems can begin early. A big concern is nursing or baby bottle tooth
decay. Your baby risks severe decay when he or she nurses continuously
from the breast or from a bottle of milk, formula, or juice during naps
or at night.
Another concern is gum disease. Recent studies show nearly half of all
children aged two and three have at least mild inflammation of gum tissues.
The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental
problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily, learn to speak
clearly, and smile with confidence. Start your child now on a lifetime
of good dental habits.
Q: How can I prevent tooth decay from nursing or a bottle?
A: Don't nurse your child to sleep or put your baby to bed with a bottle
of milk, formula, juice, or sweetened liquid. Use only water in the bottle,
or give your baby a pacifier. Check with your pediatric dentist to make
sure your child is getting enough fluoride for decay protection. Lastly,
learn how to brush and floss your child's teeth.
Q: When should bottle or breast feeding be stopped?
A: To assure good dental health, infants should be weaned from a bottle
or nursing at one year of age.
Q: Should I worry about thumb or finger sucking?
A: Thumb sucking is perfectly normal for infants: most stop by age two.
If your child doesn't, discourage it after age four. Prolonged thumb sucking
can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems. Your pediatric dentist
will be glad to suggest ways to address a prolonged thumb-sucking habit.
Q: When should I start cleaning my baby's teeth?
A: The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your baby's gums with
a clean damp wash cloth. Use a tiny dab of fluoride toothpaste if your
pediatric dentist advises fluoride protection. Later, brush your child's
teeth with fluoride toothpaste and small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Remember
that most small children do not have the dexterity to brush their teeth
Q: Any advice on teething?
A: From six months to age three, your child may have sore gums when teeth
erupt. Many babies like a clean teething ring, cool spoon or cold wet
wash cloth. Some parents swear by a chilled teething ring: others simply
rub the baby's gums with a clean finger.