Parents often ask: when is a good time to take my child to see the dentist?
Well, at the time of birth, your baby has 20 baby
teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw. But proper dental care begins even before a
baby's first tooth appears in their mouth. Just because you can't see any teeth, doesn't mean they aren't there.
Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. Many couples who have adopted children never
received proper training for infant and toddler oral health care.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and the
American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend that a child's first visit to the
dentist take place before their first birthday. At this visit, the dentist will explain safe
brushing and flossing techniques and conduct a modified exam while your baby
sits on your or your partner’s lap. The
purpose of this visit for the child is two-fold. Primarily, it is to determine the current
dental and physical development of the baby while looking for any potential
anomalies. The visit also serves to
establish a dental home for the child, and to begin helping the child develop a
positive comfort level with doctor-type interactions they will encounter
throughout their lives. Such visits are
pivotal in the early detection of potential developing problems, and help kids
become accustomed to visiting the dentist so they'll have less fear of visits,
as they grow older.
Even small babies can have significant problems with dental decay when parents are unaware of warning signs and do not
practice proper feeding techniques. Simply running a clean, damp washcloth over a young baby’s gums
following routine feedings can minimize the buildup of harmful bacteria that
cause future problems. Once teeth begin
to appear, your dentist can recommend special toothbrushes that focus on
removing plaque and biofilms off the erupting teeth. Depending on the
development of the baby, the dentist may also provide parents with soft gauze
and distinct toothpastes for proper removal of bacteria in the mouth and on the
Most childhood decay starts with incorrect
feeding techniques. Although convenient
in the short term, putting a baby to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice can
cause significant problems. The sugars
and acids in the drinks coat the baby’s teeth for hours and eat away at the
teeth, causing early cavities. Bacteria
can further colonize these cavities and cause large painful dental decay for
the baby. Any child under the age of 6 with a single cavity is considered a
high-risk patient for cavities by a dental provider. Problematic cases have been termed as “bottle
rot” or “bottle mouth.” Bottle mouth
shows pocketed, pitted, or discolored teeth and often leads to the pulling of
all front teeth until the adult teeth can come in at a later age.
It is important for the child to visit the dentist in order to receive a proper exam, gauge development, and establish a positive
comfort level. It is equally as important for parents to participate in this visit. Parents will learn about setting expectations, future milestones, actively prevention of problems, brushing techniques, and how to treat kids’ dental emergencies at home. If the child, parents, and dentist are all on the same page, then the child is given the best opportunity to grow up with a health and beautiful smile.
About Dr. Keith Dobracki
Dr. Keith Dobracki actively practices dentistry in his
hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. He is a
recognized contributor to multiple dental publications and focuses his dental
care on pediatric patients as well as adult cosmetic cases. He has developed various programs to
alleviate anxiety for kids during their dental visits, which have been
presented in the public media. He is
also a clinical professor at The University of Michigan Dental School.