Health Team

Dentists: Proper oral health starts before teeth arrive

Posted June 14, 2012

— Even before a child has a mouthful of teeth, they should be making trips to the dentist. 

In fact, dentists recommend that children have their first dental exam after their first tooth comes in, no later than their first birthday.

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For most children, primary teeth – often called "baby teeth" – usually begin coming in when they are 6 months old. 

Although they do fall out, dentists say primary teeth are just as important as adult teeth because they held children speak and chew and hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth that follow.

Before teeth are visible, there are several steps parents can take to improve oral health. According to dentists with the North Carolina Dental Society, parents should wipe down their baby's gums with a clean cloth after every feeding to remove plaque. 

As soon as teeth appear, parents should begin brushing them with a children's toothbrush and water.

Toothpaste isn't recommended until children turn 2 years old, and dentists say it's imperative that parents thoroughly rinse out the child's mouth with water after brushing.

Dentists also said that parents should avoid sharing spoons with babies because of the risk of oral infection being transmitted through saliva. This includes pacifiers, which should be kept clean. 

Thumb sucking can cause long-term dental damage Experts say babies should visit dentist within first year

At night, don't put a baby to bed with a bottle, even with breast milk or formula, dentists said.

Any liquid containing sugar, like fruit juices or sweetened water, can be harmful. The resulting tooth decay can become severe enough that individual teeth have to be removed. 

Dentists recommend that babies finish their bottle before going down for a nap or going to sleep at night.


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  • msncdso Jun 20, 2012

    A little common sense would also help...

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Jun 14, 2012

    Just another way for dentist to get money. Greed is ruining this country.

  • JohnnyMcRonny Jun 14, 2012

    Thi$ i$ ridiculou$.

    Why not just whip out each tooth as it appears and put in a nice, expen$ive artificial one? Why wait for the kid$ to grow up to extract not only their teeth but their money.

    In the interests of disclosure, I went for 15 years without going to the dentist and, when I was finally persuaded to go, the dentist found no health issues with my teeth or gums - I just needed a deep clean.

  • sammyg Jun 14, 2012

    This is a crock. People don't need to bring babies to the dentist!

  • thewayitis Jun 14, 2012

    Just another way to get more money from the government for the low-income set. Most people who actually have to pay don't take their infants to the dentist. I've had several (eithical) dentists tell me it is unnecessary. Pediatricians check the mouth at the routine exams and can let parents know if there is anything wrong. My baby once had something unusual in his mouth, and my pediatrician called the pediatric dentist while I was in the office and confirmed what he thought (that it was nothing to be concerned about), and that was the end of that.. My oldest son didn't go to the dentist until he was 5, and my youngest when he was 3. They are now 9 and 12 and neither has ever had a cavity. I get so irate when I hear the ads to bring your baby to the dentist, that the government will help you pay for it. Yep, these entitlement programs for unnecessary things need to stop.

  • mnorman578 Jun 14, 2012

    OK, you're definitely entitled to your opinion. Maybe you need to find a dentist that you trust (if you value dental care). They're plenty of them out there.

  • Comfortably Numb Jun 14, 2012

    And Comfortably Numb, I'd be pretty surprised to hear of any dentist recommending once/week appointments + x-rays for anyone.
    They will recommend anything that makes you pull out your wallet.

  • kbird Jun 14, 2012

    hmmmm...funny that my dentist, who i do not feel is trying to bleed me dry of every last penny i have, does not recommend any of this nonsense and any oral care i need to provide for my young children he shares with me free of charge. i do not have to make an expensive appoitment for the five minutes it takes for him to explain those steps to me.

  • mnorman578 Jun 14, 2012

    And Comfortably Numb, I'd be pretty surprised to hear of any dentist recommending once/week appointments + x-rays for anyone.

  • mnorman578 Jun 14, 2012

    Some people/cultures do share pacifiers between parent/child and aren't aware of this. I guess you are, which is great. An important aspect of an early dental appointment for children is parental education in caring for their children's teeth and mouth. It's amazing how uninformed some parents are.