Ask Nicole - Your Baby’s First Tooth PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nicole M. Young   

A first birthday is the first of many happy celebrations. I remember the big celebration we had for each of my children when they turned 1. Although they don’t remember it now, I’m sure they could sense that something special was happening as they were surrounded by smiling friends and family. Birthdays are a reminder that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children doesn’t come wrapped in a box with paper and ribbons. It’s the way we care for them and teach them healthy habits that last a lifetime, including taking care of their mouths and teeth.


This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, please email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Dear Nicole,

My baby is 10 months old and doesn’t have a tooth yet. I think it will happen soon, but her pediatrician said I should take her to the dentist before her first birthday, even if she doesn’t have a tooth. It doesn’t make sense to go to the dentist when she doesn’t have any teeth yet, and it’s expensive! I trust my pediatrician, but is it OK to wait?

-       Anna


Dear Anna,

Good question! Going to the dentist before your baby has teeth may sound odd, but your pediatrician is right. In fact, seeing a dentist by the time your baby has a first tooth or a first birthday — whichever comes first — is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association. Healthy baby teeth increase the chances that your child’s permanent teeth will be healthy, too.

Tooth decay ¾ the disease that causes cavities ¾ is caused by germs in the mouth, so keeping your baby’s mouth clean will help teeth stay strong and healthy. Just like adults, babies need healthy teeth to chew, talk, smile, and feel good. Healthy baby teeth also save space for the permanent teeth. Unfortunately, tooth decay is very common in children. Over 40 percent of children entering kindergarten have tooth decay – much more common than asthma. If it’s not treated, tooth decay can lead to more serious and painful problems.

Fortunately, tooth decay is preventable. Here are a few tips to help your child have a healthy mouth and teeth. It’s never too early to start!


·      Keep sugary drinks (including juice and milk) out of your baby’s bottle. If you do use a bottle at night, fill it with water.


·      Don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle or sip from a bottle or cup all day. At about 6 months, start using a cup so that a bottle won’t be needed by the time your baby turns 1.


·      As your baby’s teeth arrive, start brushing twice a day, ideally after breakfast and at bedtime, with a little dab of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) and a child-sized toothbrush. This is especially important if the water in your community is not fluoridated.

You will need to brush your baby’s teeth at first, but you can use positive parenting strategies to prepare your child to do this independently as they get older. Let your child watch as you brush your teeth, and encourage your child to copy your movements. Talk or sing about the steps you’re following as you brush your child’s teeth to turn it into a fun routine that your child enjoys.


·      Find a “dental home” for your child. Getting consistent care from a dentist is important, just like seeing your pediatrician at your child’s “medical home.” If you need help finding a dentist, contact the state Denti-Cal program at 1-800-322-6384 or www.denti-cal.ca.gov, or ask your pediatrician for a referral.


·      Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish and drops or tablets. Some pediatricians also are able to provide fluoride varnish during your baby’s check-ups.


·      Provide healthy food for your child. Avoiding sugary snacks, food, and drinks will help your child’s teeth get off to a good start. Provide lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and be careful about dried fruit like raisins. These can stick to the grooves in your child’s teeth and lead to cavities if brushing doesn’t completely remove them.


Final Thoughts: Like other healthy habits, taking care of your mouth and teeth starts early and lasts a lifetime. Help your baby have a healthy mouth — and remember to take care of your own, while you’re at it!


Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 13 and 17, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program, the world's leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit http://triplep.first5scc.org, www.facebook.com/triplepscc or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Friday, 01 December 2017 01:48
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