What Should You Know About Your Child’s Oral Health?
When should you take your child to the dentist? How can you protect against kids' cavities? WebMD asked an expert.
When your baby is born, you quickly fall into a rhythm of regular visits
with your pediatrician that continues throughout childhood. But many parents
are more confused about taking their child to the dentist and caring for their
WebMD asked Natasha Mathias, DDS, a fellow of the American Academy of
Pediatric Dentistry in Montclair, N.J., to answer some of the most common
questions she hears from parents -- and some questions she wishes parents would
ask, but don’t!
Should my child see a pediatric dentist?
This is the most common question I get. “Why can’t I just take my child to
my own dentist?” For the same reason you don’t take your child to your own
internist -- you take her to a pediatrician. Children are not miniature adults.
Their bodies are very different, and so are their teeth. A pediatric dentist
has expertise in those differences.
Why should I take my toddler to the dentist when his baby teeth will just
fall out anyway?
We may lose our primary teeth eventually, but their health is very important
to our oral health over the long term. Once a baby tooth gets bacteria in
there, it progresses pretty quickly, seeping through the tooth and going to the
bone and potentially causing dental infections that can even be fatal. That’s
the worst consequence. But even if that doesn’t happen, if bacteria lurk in the
baby teeth, the enamel for the adult teeth may not be formed properly and they
can be permanently damaged.
How much fluoride does my child need? How much is too much?
Optimum fluoride levels in the water, we know from research, are about one
part per million. If it’s more than that, it’s a problem and can lead to
fluorosis --discoloration of the teeth. If it’s much less than that, it’s not
enough to protect the teeth. You can find out how much fluoride is in your
water by calling your municipal water supplier, or buying a water testing kit
online. If you live in an area where the water isn’t fluoridated, your
pediatrician or pediatric dentist can give you a prescription for fluoride
When should I take my child to the dentist for the first
When they get their first tooth or reach their first birthday, whichever is
earlier. Many people are shocked that it’s so early. The older guideline was
age three, just because that’s when general dentists found they could manage a
child. But at three, we often find that damage has already been done from baby
bottle tooth decay or cavities.
How should I prepare my child for his first visit to the