Boy with toothbrush At what age should I first take my child to the dentist?

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child go to the dentist by one year of age. An exam and usually a toothbrush cleaning are performed at this visit. The exam will consist of caries (cavity) detection, checking the soft tissue for pathology, and checking the development of the child's teeth. DON'T WAIT! Dr. Jackson has had to fix teeth on children that are only a year old!

When should my baby's first tooth come in?

Some children are born with one or two teeth, and others do not get any until after 1 year of age. Both of these are normal situations. The average age the first tooth comes in (erupts) is around 6-7 months. Usually the first teeth to erupt are the bottom front two (mandibular central incisors). To help alleviate discomfort, give Children's Motrin (Children's Ibuprofen), or Children's Tylenol as directed on the bottle or by a Physician. Other things that can help are applying Baby Orajel to the gums (gingiva), as directed on the package, or have the child bite on a teething ring or very cold washcloth.

Can babies get cavities?

Yes! Cavities (caries) can occur at any age when teeth are present. Most decay in infants and toddlers is caused by liquids consumed from a bottle or sippy cup. This is true even if the liquid is 100% juice, formula, milk or breast milk! These nutrient-rich drinks have natural sugars in them that can cause tooth-decay. Give your child these liquids for nutrition, not as a way to pacify them.

Can my baby have a pacifier?

If the baby is being breastfed, some pediatricians advise waiting until a nursing routine has been established before introducing a pacifier. The American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged the use of a pacifier during the first year of life to help reduce the chance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It's best to stop the use of the pacifier soon after the first birthday. Waiting longer increases the chance of dental deformities as well as it being much harder to take it away from your child!

My child still uses a pacifier or sucks thumb/finger/lip. How big of an issue is this?

Goals for stopping the pacifier/thumb/finger/lip habits are around age 3. Stopping the pacifier around 12 months of age is easier to do because the child is less attached to it. Thumb/finger/lip habits can be harder to break. If stopped by age 3, the chance of facial/jaw malformations is decreased. If it continues, orthodontics is usually necessary to correct the misaligned teeth and sometimes jaw surgery is needed.

Why should I care about baby teeth…they just fall out, right?

True, baby teeth do fall out, but they are important nonetheless. Not only do they help with speech and eating, they help facilitate the healthy development of the unerupted adult teeth. Premature loss of these baby (primary) teeth can lead to developmental anomalies with the adult teeth or can lead to spacing issues, which can cause severe crowding. The premature loss of primary teeth can cause orthodontic and oral surgery concerns in the teenage years. Also, if not treated, cavities in primary teeth can quickly develop into toothaches or serious infections. These toothaches can be very painful to a child and can cause other health concerns as well as diminished performance in school.

What is the best toothpaste, toothbrush or floss?

Any kind of fluoridated toothpaste your child tolerates is fine. Make sure the amount of toothpaste is no more than a smear for children less than 2 years old. For children age 2-5 years, use a pea sized amount. Keep in mind that too much toothpaste, if swallowed can damage developing adult teeth. The toothbrush should be soft bristled, not medium or hard. Don't forget to brush all sides of the teeth: the cheek and lip surfaces, the chewing surfaces, and the tongue and roof of the mouth surfaces too! Any type of floss works. Floss sticks are great!

When should I floss my child's teeth?

Flossing should begin as soon as two teeth touch. Baby (primary) teeth can get cavities (caries) as early as 6 months of age! If a child gets a cavity (caries) in between two teeth, these cavities progress quickly and are more involved to treat. Flossing between teeth as early as possible can help prevent cavities (caries).

How long should I help my child with his/her brushing/flossing?

This age varies based on each child. The manual dexterity needed to brush and floss the teeth well usually develops between the ages of 8-10. Some kids get the hang of it earlier but keep inspecting those teeth to make sure the child is doing a good job!

Fluoride….we have well water. Do we need a fluoride supplement?

Many wells do have fluoride in their water content. However, if you have a well, you should talk to your dentist and possibly have your well water tested for fluoride content. If you are concerned about a lack of fluoride, ACT Fluoride or Listerine with Fluoride are great over the counter rinses that can benefit everyone…adults included!

What are sealants?

Sealants are protective coatings placed on the chewing surfaces of molars. The purpose is to seal the grooves and pits in the chewing surface of the tooth because toothbrush bristles are too large to clean in these areas. These coatings help prevent cavities, can be white or clear, and do not require anesthesia (numbing) for placement.

When should my child first see an orthodontist? (Braces?)

The American Academy of Orthodontists recommends a child see an orthodontist around age 7, or when all four 6-year molars have erupted. Braces may not be put on at this age, but plans can be made for how and when orthodontic treatment may begin. Some situations where orthodontic therapy may be initiated at this age are severe malocclusions (severe bite issues) severe crowding, or loss of space due to early loss of primary (baby) teeth.

Note: Please do not put your child to sleep with a bottle or sippy cup full of milk, juice, breast milk, formula, etc. This is the number one way children under 3 get cavities. If you still give your child liquids in a sippy cup, PLEASE only give it to them at meal times. Frequent use of a sippy cup with milk, juice, breast milk, or formula, can cause Early Childhood Cavities. If you need to put your child to bed with a liquid please use water.

This is the link to the AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) FAQ as well: