“First visit by ﬁrst birthday” sums it up. Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the ﬁrst tooth comes in, usually between 6 and 12 months of age. This visit will establish a dental home for your child. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.
The most important reason is to begin a thorough prevention program. Dental problems can begin early. A big concern is Early Childhood Caries (formerly known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries). Once a child’s diet includes anything besides breast-milk, erupted teeth are at risk for decay. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of pre-venting dental problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily and smile with conﬁdence. Start your child now on a lifetime of good dental habits.
At-will breast-feeding should be avoided after the ﬁrst primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt and other sources of nutrition have been introduced. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle containing any-thing other than water. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. Fruit juice should only be offered in a cup with meals or at snack time.
Children should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.
Thumb sucking is perfectly normal for infants; many stop by age 2. Prolonged thumb sucking can create crooked teeth or bite problems. If the habit continues beyond age 3, a professional evaluation is recommended. Your pediatric dentist will be glad to suggest ways to address a prolonged thumb sucking habit.
The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using ﬂuoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a “smear” of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For the 2-5 year old, dispense a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively.
From six months to age 3, your child may have tender gums when teeth erupt. Many children like a clean teething ring, cool spoon or cold wet washcloth. Some parents swear by a chilled ring; others simply rub the baby’s gums with a clean ﬁnger.