Dental Care for Your Baby and Toddler

When should my child first see a dentist?

“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.

Why so early? What dental problems could a baby or toddler have?

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 preventing dental problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily and smile with confidence. Start your child now on a lifetime of good dental habits.

How can I prevent tooth decay from nursing or using a bottle?

At-will breastfeeding 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 anything 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.


Frenectomies are often required for infants and toddlers who may have tongue ties (ankyloglossia) or lip ties. These are similar conditions that result in a restricted oral range of motion.

A tongue tie occurs when the frenulum, the band of tissue that connects the tongue to the base of the mouth, is too thick and overdeveloped. This band of tissue prevents your child’s tongue from moving properly. They may not be able to stick it out very far, and it may be difficult to move it from side to side.

Tongue ties are often first noticed when a child is breastfeeding. They may have difficulties latching onto the nipple and feeding properly and may cry frequently when trying to feed. Tongue ties are also associated with poor weight gain and nutrition.

Lip ties are a related condition. Rather than affecting the tongue, this condition occurs when the band of tissue connecting the upper, lower, or both lips to the gums is overdeveloped. Similarly to a tongue tie, this causes issues with an oral range of motion, particularly when breastfeeding.

To resolve tongue or lip ties, a frenectomy is usually recommended. As a rule, it’s best to treat tongue and lip ties with a frenectomy as early as possible. This is a very simple oral surgery, and it’s very safe.

In this procedure, your child’s dentist at Dentistry For Children will use special surgical instruments to gently snip the band of tissue, releasing the tongue or lip tie. As your child recovers, you will need to help them do a few exercises to ensure they maintain their oral range of motion, and their tongue or lip ties do not recur.

When should bottle-feeding be stopped?

Children should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.

Should I worry about thumb and finger sucking?

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.

When should I start cleaning my baby’s teeth?

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.

Any advice on teething?

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.


A pulpotomy is also called a “baby root canal,” because it’s a similar procedure that’s used to treat a baby tooth that has become infected. However, pulpotomies are not quite as invasive as root canals. While root canals involve removing all of the pulp inside the tooth (pulpectomy), pulpotomies do not.

In a pulpotomy, your child’s tooth will be cleaned and then their mouth will be numbed. After this, your child’s dentist will open up the tooth, and clean out any infected material from the inside of the tooth. If the infection is not too extensive, your child’s dentist will apply a special healing dressing to the pulp.

This dressing helps keep the pulp alive. After it’s been applied, your child’s dentist will fill and seal the tooth with a dental crown, protecting it from future damage. Pulpotomies are ideal for baby teeth, because they keep the tooth alive. This means there won’t be any complications when it’s time for your child’s adult teeth to emerge.

Infected teeth are relatively rare in kids, but can occur due to improper oral hygiene, or in kids who have genetically weak enamel. Common signs of infected teeth in kids include tooth pain and sensitivity, discoloration of the tooth or nearby gums, and bad breath. If you notice one or more of these issues, schedule an appointment with Dentistry for Children right away.


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