Baby’s First Trip to the Dentist PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sepideh Taghvaei, DDS   

If you or someone you know has recently become a parent, you may have heard that a visit to the dentist is now recommended as soon as a baby’s first birthday, or whenever a first tooth appears ¾ whichever happens first.

What if a baby turns one, but doesn’t have any teeth yet? Is it still necessary to go to the dentist, even without teeth?


It may seem odd, but the answer is yes: first tooth or first birthday, the sooner the better. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recommend early visits for many reasons. The main one is that healthy baby teeth lead to healthy permanent teeth. Like other health issues, starting good habits early pays off later, and prevention now is much better than a cure later.

Germs in your mouth are the cause of tooth decay, which causes cavities. Tooth decay is very common in children. Over 40 percent of children entering kindergarten have tooth decay, making it much more common than asthma. If it is not treated, tooth decay can lead to much more serious and painful problems. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable.


Keeping a baby’s mouth clean (and an adult’s, too, of course) helps prevent tooth decay and keeps teeth strong and healthy. Just like we do, babies need healthy teeth to chew, talk, smile, and just feel good. Healthy baby teeth also save room for permanent teeth that arrive later in childhood ¾ and, if they’re cared for properly, they can last a lifetime.

In addition to visiting a dentist, here are some tips to help you make sure your child has a healthy mouth and teeth.


  • Keep sugary drinks (including juice and milk) out of your baby’s bottle. If you do give your baby a bottle at night, fill it with water instead of milk, formula, juice, or sweet drinks.


  • 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 you are celebrating your baby’s first birthday.


  • Before your baby’s teeth arrive, clean the gums with a clean, damp cloth twice a day.


  • 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 really important in Santa Cruz County, because our water is not fluoridated. You’ll have to help your children brush for a few years and put the toothpaste on the brush for them, but by the time they are 6 to 8 they’ll be on their own. Try starting the brushing for them and letting them finish, at first. And just as with other health habits, you can be a good role model for them ¾ and so can older brothers and sisters.


  • Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish and drops or tablets. Some pediatricians also are able to provide fluoride varnish during your baby’s well-child check-ups, which is really convenient.


Talk to your doctor about a referral to a dentist, if you don’t already have one. A “dental home,” where the dentist can provide consistent care (just like your pediatrician does at your child’s “medical home”) is important. 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. In Santa Cruz County, Dientes Community Dental (831-464-5409, or dientes.org) and Salud Para La Gente (831-728-0222, splg.org) provide dental care to patients on Medi-Cal and on a sliding fee scale.


  • It’s never too late to start a healthy habit. If your children are no longer babies, they will still benefit from regular brushing and a visit to the dentist, if they haven’t already been to one. If they do have tooth decay and cavities, a dentist can help treat any problems and prevent them from getting any worse.


  • Feed your child a healthy diet. This has many other health benefits, too, but avoiding sugary snacks, food, and drinks will really help your child’s teeth get off to a good start. We are fortunate on the Central Coast to be surrounded by great fresh fruits and vegetables all year long, so take advantage of it! (Just 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.)


Taking care of your mouth and teeth is a healthy habit that starts early and lasts a lifetime. You can help your baby get started on the path to a healthy mouth ¾ and don’t forget to take care of your mouth, too!


Dr. Sepi Taghvaei obtained her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from New York University College of Dentistry in 2009 and has been the Dental Director of Dientes Community Dental for over 3 years. As the co-chair of Oral Health Access Santa Cruz County, she has found great pleasure in leading a multi-partnership effort in improving the oral health of Santa Cruz County residents. Dr. Taghvaei lives in Aptos with her son and their pug, Squirt.

Last Updated on Monday, 12 February 2018 14:52
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