About the Expert
Dr. Christina Huynh has been practicing dentistry for 10 years, the first five as a general dentist. She returned to school for two additional years to become a pedodontist. “It’s rewarding for me to work with a child and help them realize going to the dentist can be fun,” she says. “Parents can’t believe their kids actually ask to come back to see us.”
At what age should my child first see the dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children see a pediatric dentist by age one or when their first tooth erupts. Just as your pediatrician does periodic check-ups to assure your baby is healthy and meeting their development markers, we want to make sure their teeth are healthy and their teeth, gums, and jaws are developing correctly.
What should I expect at my child’s dental visit?
That first visit is about helping your child feel comfortable with sitting in the dental chair and having the dentist look in their mouth. It’s also a time for me to offer the parents nutritional counseling and discuss habits at home that could be causing tooth decay such as nighttime feedings. Cavities can develop fast on baby teeth if milk sits on them throughout the night.
How can I prepare them for that first visit?
There are fun books and YouTube videos about going to the dentist. Look for one with characters your child likes like Elmo, Peppa Pig, or Blippi. Role play going to the dentist. Take turns being the dentist and looking in your child’s mouth. Then let them be the dentist and look in your mouth.
How important is the care of baby teeth which my child will lose anyway?
We want to keep those baby teeth healthy and in place because they’re holding a place for permanent teeth and helping guide them into the correct position. While your child will begin losing their front baby teeth around kindergarten or first grade, they’ll keep their back teeth until age 11 or so. Meanwhile, they’re helping your child chew properly to maintain good nutrition, allowing correct speech development, and promoting a healthy smile that helps children feel good about themselves.
My child balks at using toothpaste. Can I just use a wet toothbrush to brush his teeth?
Look for a brand or different flavor your child likes and make sure it comes with fluoride. Fluoride makes teeth stronger and more resistant to acid, reducing the risk of cavities and even reversing early signs of decay. Take your child to the store and let them select a brand of toothpaste they like, perhaps one with their favorite character on the tube. If they feel like they chose it and this is what they wanted, they’re more likely to use it.
I know some foods are bad for my child’s teeth. Are their foods that are good for them?
If you’re going to pick a candy for them, look for anything sweetened with xylitol which can actually reverse some cavities. Study results indicate that four to 20 grams of xylitol each day, divided into three or more helpings, can reduce tooth decay and cavities by as much as 70%. Cheeses can help prevent cavities, and most kids love string cheese. Carrots, celery, and hard fruits which help to remove plaque and other foods from around their teeth can also help prevent cavities.