Does My Baby Need to Go to the Dentist?

Hello all! It’s been a while, but I’m back! Not only is February the greatest month (because it is my birth month, DUH!), but it is also National Children’s Dental Health Month! This month was set aside by the American Dental Association to bring awareness to and to educate everybody about the importance of good oral health habits during childhood.

I get asked a lot “When should I take my child to the dentist?” The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child should have the first dental visit by the first birthday (here are some wonderful brochures from them). Ideally, the baby should start getting familiar with the dentist once the first tooth comes in, which is around the age of 6 months. I know…the baby has one maybe two teeth by then, but let’s look at the benefits of doing this. The baby is establishing a dental home, establishing trust with the doctor and by starting good oral health habits early the chances of having dental issues is reduced and/or any issues are caught at early onset.

Here is another thing I hear, “Do I need to get a baby tooth filled/crowned if it has a cavity? Isn’t it going to come out anyway?” Yes, it will come out, but it may not come out for a few years! If the tooth is very loose and about to come out, that’s one thing. But, trust me, a 2- or 3-year with a toothache or abscessed tooth (that isn’t going to come out for another 3-10 years depending on the tooth) is no fun. Go ahead and get the tooth filled rather than wait around and let the cavity get bigger. The child may end up needing a “baby root canal” and crown, extraction, pain medication, antibiotics or even hospitalization. Not worth it…

Here are some tips to properly address your child’s oral health needs:

    • Some dentists will treat children and have a lot of experience with younger patients, but some prefer not to. You can check with your dentist to see what age children they see in their practice, but you should strongly consider taking your child to a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists have an additional 2 years of training after dental school and are extremely knowledgeable on how to deal with children and developmentally challenged persons.
    • From birth make sure you clean the child’s gums with a cloth or special baby toothbrushes. Once the first teeth have erupted make the child’s first dental appointment and clean the teeth with a washcloth or baby brush and fluoride-free toothpaste. You can place the paste on the brush and let the baby chew on the brush.

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    • NEVER put a baby to sleep with a bottle of juice or milk!!! This can lead to baby bottle tooth decay. If you must give the baby a bottle at bed/naptime, make sure water is in it.

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    • Make sure you keep regular dental visits (every 6 months) for your child. Make it a fun event and even let your child watch you or an older sibling getting a dental cleaning to curb any fears.
    • I highly recommend fluoride treatment of the teeth and sealants. The fluoride helps to make the teeth stronger and sealants on decay-free teeth can prevent decay from forming in deep grooves and pits of certain teeth.
    • Around age 5-6 the adult first molars start to erupt, but they (nor the 12-year molars) do not replace baby teeth and often go ignored initially. Look out for these teeth and make sure they are brushed properly.
    • Until your child has learned the proper technique, the parent needs to make sure the teeth are brushed properly every day, at least twice per day, two minutes of brushing! Also, make sure you use floss and an ADA approved rinse.

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    • Let’s face it, children love candy…and chocolate…and fruit…and juice…and crackers…and chips…you get the picture. All of these things have carbs/sugars that, if not properly cleaned from the teeth, can lead to tooth decay. Make sure the child has some water after consuming these things and brush the teeth at least 30 mins afterwards (this goes for you too!).

Whew…that was a lot! But to help keep your child’s teeth and gums healthy and cavity free just follow those tips and reward your child for a job well done. We will gladly accept children ages 10 and up. You can always call us at 212-262-2952 or visit for an appointment and visit to find a pediatric dentist near you!

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