The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child see a dentist by his or her 1st birthday. You may be advised to wait longer, but we will probably want to see your child before all his or her teeth have come in. On the first visit the dentist will check the child's teeth for decay and signs of early developmental problems, answer questions and explain how to care for the child's teeth. Most children should see a dentist every six months.
Even before your baby's first tooth comes in, wipe his or her gums with a wet cloth after feeding to remove excess food and bacteria. After teeth erupt, use a soft-bristled brush and warm water to clean the teeth. By age 3 a child's primary (baby) teeth have appeared and they should be brushing their own teeth with adult supervision. By age 8 children are usually old enough to brush and floss by themselves with only occasional checks.
A balanced diet is important for healthy teeth and gums. Children especially need calcium, which helps build strong teeth; some good sources are milk, cheese and yogurt.
When a child's first permanent molars erupt, usually at age 6, consider protecting them with dental sealants. A sealant is a thin plastic coating applied by your dentist to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. By filling in the teeth's grooves, sealants create a barrier against food and bacteria that cause decay. They are nearly 100% effective in preventing decay in back teeth.
Fluoride helps fight cavities. Your dentist can tell whether your children are getting enough. The sources include fluoride toothpaste and rinses, professional treatments, or prescription tablets, drops or gels.